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THE SLAYER OF SOULS
ROBERT W. CHAMBERS
ROBERT W. CHAMBERS
AUTHOR OF "IN SECRET," "THE COMMON LAW," "THE
RECKONING," "LORRAINE," ETC.
NEW XBIr YORK
GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
By Robert W. Chambers
Copyright, 1919, 1920, by International Magazine Company
Printed in the United States of America
Mirror of Fashion,
Admiral of Finance,
Don't, in a passion,
Denounce this poor Romance;
For, while I dare not hope it might
Perhaps it will, some rainy night,
So, your attention,
In poetry polite,
To my invention
I bashfully invite.
Don't hurl the book at Eddie's head
Or Messmore's; you might hit instead
Kahn among Canners,
And Grand Vizier of style,
Emir of Manners,
Accept and place on file
This tribute, which I proffer while
And honor with thy matchless Smile
R. W. C.
I THE YEZIDEE 13
II THE YELLOW SNAKE 21
III GREY MAGIC 38
IV BODY AND SOUL 54
V THE ASSASSINS 76
VI IN BATTLE 95
VII THE BRIDAL 113
VIII THE MAN IN WHITE 135
IX THE WEST WIND 147
. X AT THE RITZ l6l
XI YULUN THE BELOVED 183
XII HIS EXCELLENCY 197
xin SA-N'SA 207
XIV A DEATH-TRAIL 238
XV IN THE FIRELIGHT 249
XVI THE PLACE OF PRAYER 26l
XVII THE SLAYER OF SOULS 277
THE SLAYER OF SOULS
THE SLAYER OF SOULS
ONLY when the Nan-yang Maru sailed from
Yuen-San did her terrible sense of forebod-
ing begin to subside.
For four years, waking or sleeping, the awful sub-
consciousness of supreme evil had never left her.
But now, as the Korean shore, receding into dark-
ness, grew dimmer and dimmer, fear subsided and
grew vague as the half-forgotten memory of horror
in a dream.
She stood near the steamer's stern apart from
other passengers, a slender, lonely figure in her
silver-fox furs, her ulster and smart little hat, watch-
ing the lights of Yuen-San grow paler and smaller
along the horizon until they looked like a level row
Under her haunted eyes Asia was slowly dis-
solving to a streak of vapour in the misty lustre of
Suddenly the ancient continent disappeared,
washed out by a wave against the sky; and with it
14 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
vanished the last shreds of that accursed nightmare
which had possessed her for four endless years. But
whether during those unreal years her soul had only
been held in bondage, or whether, as she had been
taught, it had been irrevocably destroyed, she still
remained uncertain, knowing nothing about the death
of souls or how it was accomplished.
As she stood there, her sad eyes fixed on the misty
East, a passenger passing an Englishwoman
paused to say something kind to the young American ;
and added, "if there is anything my husband and I
can do it would give us much pleasure." The girl
ha.d turned her head as though not comprehending.
The other woman hesitated.
"This is Doctor Nome's daughter, is it not?" she
inquired in a pleasant voice.
"Yes, I am Tressa Nome. ... I ask your par-
don. . . . Thank you, madam: I am I seem to
be a trifle dazed "
"What wonder, you poor child! Come to us if
you feel need of companionship."
"You are very kind. ... I seem to wish to be
"I understand. . . . Good-night, my dear."
Late the next morning Tressa Nome awoke, con-
scious for the first time in four years that it was at
last her own familiar self stretched out there on the
pillows where sunshine streamed through the port-
hole. All that day she lay in her bamboo steamer
chair on deck. Sun and wind conspired to dry every
tear that wet her closed lashes. Her dark, glossy
THE YEZIDEE 15
hair blew about her face ; scarlet tinted her full lips
again ; the tense hands relaxed. Peace came at sun-
That evening she took her Yu-kin from her cabin
and found a chair on the deserted hurricane deck.
And here, in the brilliant moonlight of the China
Sea, she curled up cross-legged on the deck, all alone,
and sounded the four futile strings of her moon-lute,
and hummed to herself, in a still voice, old songs
she had sung in Yian before the tragedy. She sang
the tent-song called Tchinguiz. She sang Camel
Bells and The Blue Bazaar, children's songs of the
Yiort. She sang the ancient Khiounnou song called
u The Saghalien":
In the month of Saffar
Among the river-reeds
I saw two horsemen
Sitting on their steeds.
By the river-reeds
In the month of Saffar
A demon guards the ford.
Tokhta, my Lover!
Draw your shining sword!
Slay him with your sword!
16 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
In the month of Saffar
] Among the water-weeds
I saw two horsemen
Fighting on their steeds.
l How my lover bleeds/
In the month of Saffar,
The Year I should have wed
The Year of The Panther
My lover lay dead,
Dead without a head.
And songs like these the one called "Keuke
Mongol," and an ancient air of the Tchortchas called
"The Thirty Thousand Calamities," and some Chi-
nese boatmen's songs which she had heard in Yian
before the tragedy; these she hummed to herself
there in the moonlight playing on her round-faced,
short-necked lute of four strings.
Terror indeed seemed ended for her, and in her
heart a great overwhelming joy was welling up
which seemed to overflow across the entire moonlit
She had no longer any fear; no premonition of
further evil. Among the few Americans and English
aboard, something of her story was already known.
THE YEZIDEE 17
People were kind; and they were also considerate
enough to subdue their sympathetic curiosity when
they discovered that this young American girl shrank
from any mention of what had happened to her
during the last four years of the Great World War.
It was evident, also, that she preferred to remain
aloof; and this inclination, when finally understood,
was respected by her fellow passengers. The clever,
efficient and polite Japanese officers and crew of the
Nan-yang Maru were invariably considerate and
courteous to her, and they remained nicely reticent,
although they also knew the main outline of her story
and very much desired to know more. And so, sur-
rounded now by the friendly security of civilised
humanity, Tressa Nome, reborn to light out of hell's
own shadows, awoke from four years of nightmare
which, after all, perhaps, never had seemed entirely
And now God's real sun warmed her by day; His
real moon bathed her in creamy coolness by night;
sky and wind and wave thrilled her with their blessed
assurance that this was once more the real world
which stretched illimitably on every side from
horizon to horizon; and the fair faces and pleasant
voices of her own countrymen made the past seem
only a ghastly dream that never again could enmesh
her soul with its web of sorcery.
And now the days at sea fled very swiftly; and
when at last the Golden Gate was not far away she
had finally managed to persuade herself that nothing
18 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
really can harm the human soul ; that the monstrous
devil-years were ended, never again to return; that
in this vast, clean Western Continent there could
be no occult threat to dread, no gigantic menace to
destroy her body, no secret power that could consign
her soul to the dreadful abysm of spiritual annihila-
Very early that morning she came on deck. The
November day was delightfully warm, the air clear
save for a belt of mist low on the water to the south-
She had been told that land would not be sighted
for twenty-four hours, but she went forward and
stood beside the starboard rail, searching the hori-
zon with the enchanted eyes of hope.
As she stood there a Japanese ship's officer cross-
ing the deck, forward, halted abruptly and stood
staring at something to the southward.
At the same moment, above the belt of mist on
the water, and perfectly clear against the blue sky
above, the girl saw a fountain of gold fire rise from
the fog, drift upward in the daylight, slowly assume
the incandescent outline of a serpentine creature
which leisurely uncoiled and hung there floating, its
lizard-tail undulating, its feet with their five stumpy
claws closing, relaxing, like those of a living reptile.
For a full minute this amazing shape of fire floated
there in the sky, brilliant in the morning light, then
the reptilian form faded, died out, and the last spark
vanished in the sunshine.
THE YEZIDEE 19
When the Japanese officer at last turned to re-
sume his promenade, he noticed a white-faced girl
gripping a stanchion behind him as though she were
on the point of swooning. He crossed the deck
quickly. Tressa Nome's eyes opened.
"Are you ill, Miss Nome?" he asked.
"The the Dragon," she whispered.
The officer laughed. "Why, that was nothing but
Chinese day-fireworks," he explained. "The crew
of some fishing boat yonder in the fog is amusing
Itself." He looked at her narrowly, then with a
nice little bow and smile he offered his arm : "If you
are indisposed, perhaps you might wish to go below
to your stateroom, Miss Nome?"
She thanked him, managed to pull herself together
and force a ghost of a smile.
He lingered a moment, said something cheerful
about being nearly home, then made her a punc-
tilious salute and went his way.
Tressa Nome leaned back against the stanchion
and closed her eyes. Her pallor became deathly. She
bent over and laid her white face in her folded arms.
After a while she lifted her head, and, turning
very slowly, stared at the fog-belt out of frightened
And saw, rising out of the fog, a pearl-tinted
sphere which gradually mounted into the clear day-
light above like the full moon's phantom in the sky.
Higher, higher rose the spectral moon until at
last it swam in the very zenith. Then it slowly evap-
orated in the blue vault above.
20 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
A great wave of despair swept her; she clung to
the stanchion, staring with half-blinded eyes at the
flat fog-bank in the south.
But no more "Chinese day-fireworks" rose out of
it. And at length she summoned sufficient strength
to go below to her cabin and lie there, half sense-
less, huddled on her bed.
When land was sighted, the following morning,
Tressa Nome had lived a century in twenty-four
hours. And in that space of time her agonised soul
had touched all depths.
But now as the Golden Gate loomed up in the
morning light, rage, terror, despair had burned
themselves out. From their ashes within her mind
arose the cool wrath of desperation armed for any-
thing, wary, alert, passionately determined to sur-
vive at whatever cost, recklessly ready to fight for
That was her sole instinct now, to go on living, to
survive, no matter at what price. And if it were
indeed true that her soul had been slain, she defied
its murderers to slay her body also.
That night, at her hotel in San Francisco, she
double-locked her door and lay down without un-
dressing, leaving all lights burning and an automatic
pistol underneath her pillow.
Toward morning she fell asleep, slept for an
hour, started up in awful fear. And saw the double-
THE YEZIDEE 21
locked door opposite the foot of her bed slowly
opening of its own accord.
Into the brightly illuminated room stepped a
graceful young man in full evening dress carrying
over his left arm an overcoat, and in his other hand
a top hat and silver tipped walking-stick.
With one bound the girl swung herself from the
bed to the carpet and clutched at the pistol under
"Sanang!" she cried in a terrible voice.
"Keuke Mongol!" he said, smilingly.
For a moment they confronted each other in the
brightly lighted bedroom, then, partly turning, he
cast a calm glance at the open door behind him ; and,
as though moved by a wind, the door slowly closed.
And she heard the key turn of itself in the lock, and
saw the bolt slide smoothly into place again.
Her power of speech came back to her presently
only a broken whisper at first : "Do you think I
am afraid of your accursed magic?" she managed
to gasp. "Do you think I am afraid of you,
"You are afraid," he said serenely.
"No, I do not lie. To one another the Yezidees
"You lie again, assassin! I am no Yezidee!"
He smiled gently. His features were pleasing,
smooth, and regular; his cheek-bones high, his skin
fine and of a pale and delicate ivory colour. Once
his black, beautifully shaped eyes wandered to the
22 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
levelled pistol which she now held clutched desper-
ately close to her right hip, and a slightly ironical
expression veiled his gaze for an instant.
"Bullets?" he murmured. "But you and I are of
"The third lie, Sanang!" Her voice had regained
its strength. Tense, alert, blue eyes ablaze, every
faculty concentrated on the terrible business before
her, the girl now seemed like some supple leopardess
poised on the swift verge of murder.
"Tokhta!"* She spat the word. "Any move-
ment toward a hidden weapon, any gesture suggest-
ing recourse to magic and I kill you, Sanang, ex-
actly where you stand!"
"With a pistol?" He laughed. Then his smooth
features altered subtly. He said: "Keuke Mongol,
who call yourself Tressa Nome, Keuke heavenly
azure-blue, named so in the temple because of the
colour of your eyes listen attentively, for this is the
Yarlig which I bring to you by word of mouth from
Yian, as from Yezidee to Yezidee :
"Here, in this land called the United States of
America, the Temple girl, Keuke Mongol, who has
witnessed the mysteries of Erlik and who under-
stands the magic of the Sheiks-el-Djebel, and who
has seen Mount Alamout and the eight castles and
the fifty thousand Hassanis in white turbans and in
robes of white; you Azure-blue eyes heed the
Yarlig! or may thirty thousand calamities over-
take you !"
*"Look out!" Nomad-Mongol dialect.
THE YEZIDEE 23
There was a dead silence; then he went on seri-
ously: "It is decreed: You shall cease to remember
that you are a Yezidee, that you are of the Has-
sanis, that you ever have laid eyes on Yian the Beau-
tiful, that you ever set naked foot upon Mount Ala-
mout. It is decreed that you remember nothing of
what you have seen and heard, of what has been
told and taught during the last four years reckoned
as the Christians reckon from our Year of the Bull.
Otherwise my Master sends you this for your
Leisurely, from under his folded overcoat, the
young man produced a roll of white cloth and
dropped it at her feet and the girl shrank aside,
shuddering, knowing that the roll of white cloth
was meant for her winding-sheet.
Then the colour came back to lip and cheek; and,
glancing up from the soft white shroud, she smiled
at the young man: "Have you ended your Oriental
mummery?" she asked calmly. "Listen very seri-
ously in your turn, Sanang, Sheik-el-Djebel, Prince
of the Hassanis who, God knows when and how,
have come out into the sunshine of this clean and
decent country, out of a filthy darkness where devils
and sorcerers make earth a hell.
"If you, or yours, threaten me, annoy me, inter-
fere with me, I shall go to our civilised police and
tell all I know concerning the Yezidees. I mean to
live. Do you understand? You know what you
have done to me and mine. I come back to my own
country alone, without any living kin, poor, home-
24 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
less, friendless, and, perhaps, damned. I intend,
nevertheless, to survive. I shall not relax my clutch
on bodily existence whatever the Yezidees may pre-
tend to have done to my soul. I am determined to
live in the body, anyway."
He nodded gravely.
She said: "Out at sea, over the fog, I saw the sign
of Yu-lao in fire floating in the day-sky. I saw his
spectral moon rise and vanish in mid-heaven. I un-
derstood. But " And here she suddenly showed
an edge of teeth under the full scarlet upper lip :
"Keep your signs and your shrouds to yourself, dog
of a Yezidee! toad! tortoise-egg! he-goat with
three legs ! Keep your threats and your messages to
yourself! Keep your accursed magic to yourself!
Do you think to frighten me with your sorcery by
showing me the Moons of Yu-lao? by opening a
bolted door? I know more of such magic than do
you, Sanang Death Adder of Alamout!"
Suddenly she laughed aloud at him laughed in-
sultingly in his expressionless face :
"I saw you and Gutchlug Khan and your cowardly
Tchortchas in red-lacquered jackets slink out of the
Temple of Erlik where the bronze gong thundered
and a cloud settled down raining little yellow snakes
all over the marble steps all over you, Prince
Sanang ! You were afraid, my Tougtchi ! you and
Gutchlug and your red Tchortchas with their hal-
berds all dripping with human entrails ! And I saw
you mount and gallop off into the woods while in
the depths of the magic cloud which rained little
THE YEZIDEE 25
yellow snakes all around you, we temple girls laughed
and mocked at you at you and your cowardly
A slight tinge of pink came into the young man's
pale face. Tressa Nome stepped nearer, her levelled
pistol resting on her hip.
"Why did you not complain of us to your Master,
the Old Man of the Mountain?" she asked jeeringly.
"And where, also, was your Yezidee magic when it
rained little snakes ? What frightened you away
who had boldly come to seize a temple girl you
who had screwed up your courage sufficiently to defy
Erlik in his very shrine and snatch from his temple
a young thing whose naked body wrapped in gold
was worth the chance of death to you?"
The young man's top-hat dropped to the floor.
He bent over to pick it up. His face was quite ex-
pressionless, quite colourless, now.
"I went on no such errand," he said with an effort.
"I went with a thousand prayers on scarlet paper
made in "
"A lie, Yezidee ! You came to seize me!"
He turned still paler. "By Abu, Omar, Otman,
and Ali, it is not true !"
"You lie ! by the Lion of God, Hassini !"
She stepped closer. "And I'll tell you another
thing you fear you Yezidee of Alamout you rob-
ber of Yian you sorcerer of Sabbah Khan, and chief
of his sect of Assassins ! You fear this native land
of mine, America ; and its laws and customs, and its
clear, clean sunshine; and its cities and people; and
26 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
its police ! Take that message back. We Americans
fear nobody save the true God! nobody neither
Yezidee nor Hassani nor Russ nor German nor that
sexless monster born of hell and called the Bol-
"Tokhta !" he cried sharply.
"Damn you!" retorted the girl; "get out of
my room! Get out of my sight! Get out of my
path ! Get out of my life ! Take that to your Mas-
ter of Mount Alamout ! I do what I please ; I go
where I please ; I live as I please. And if I please, /
turn against htm!"
"In that event," he said hoarsely, "there Ties your
winding-sheet on the floor at your feet! Take up
your shroud; and make Erlik seize you !"
"Sanang," she said very seriously.
"I hear you, Keuke-Mongol."
"Listen attentively. I wish to live. I have had
enough of death in life. I desire to remain a living,
breathing thing even if it be true as you Yezidees
tell me, that you have caught my soul in a net and
that your sorcerers really control its destiny.
"But damned or not, I passionately desire to live.
And I am coward enough to hold my peace for the
sake of living. So I remain silent. I have no
stomach to defy the Yezidees; because, if I do,
sooner or later I shall be killed. I know it. I have
no desire to die for others to perish for the sake
of the common good. I am young. I have suffered
too much; I am determined to live and let my soul
take its chances between God and Erlik."
THE YEZIDEE 27
She came close to him, looked curiously into his
"I laughed at you out of the temple cloud," she
said. "I know how to open bolted doors as well
as you do. And I know other things. And if you
ever again come to me in this life I shall first torture
you, then slay you. Then I shall tell all ! ... and
unroll my shroud."
"I keep your word of promise until you break it,"
he interrupted hastily. "Yarlig! It is decreed!"
And then he slowly turned as though to glance over
his shoulder at the locked and bolted door.
"Permit me to open it for you, Prince Sanang,"
said the girl scornfully. And she gazed steadily at
Presently, all by itself, the key turned in the lock,
the bolt slid back, the door gently opened.
Toward it, white as a corpse, his overcoat on his
left arm, his stick and top-hat in the other hand, crept
the young man in his faultless evening garb.
Then, as he reached the threshold, he suddenly
sprang aside. A small yellow snake lay coiled there
on the door sill. For a full throbbing minute the
young man stared at the yellow reptile in unfeigned
horror. Then, very cautiously, he moved his fas-
cinated eyes sideways and gazed in silence at Tressa
The girl laughed.
"Sorceress!" he burst out hoarsely. "Take that
accurseo! thing from my path!"
"What thing, Sanang?" At that his dark, fright-
28 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
ened eyes stole toward the threshold again, seeking
the little snake. But there was no snake there. And
when he was certain of this he went, twitching and
trembling all over.
Behind him the door closed softly, locking and
And behind the bolted door in the brightly lighted
bedroom Tressa Nome fell on both knees, her pistol
still clutched in her right hand, calling passionately
upon Christ to forgive her for the dreadful ability
she had dared to use, and begging Him to save her
body from death and her soul from the snare of the
THE YELLOW SNAKE
WHEN the young man named Sanang left the
bed-chamber of Tressa Nome he turned to
the right in the carpeted corridor outside
and hurried toward the hotel elevator. But he did
not ring for the lift; instead he took the spiral iron
stairway which circled it, and mounted hastily to the
Here was his own apartment and he entered it
with a key bearing the hotel tag. A dusky-skinned
powerful old man wearing a grizzled beard and a
greasy broadcloth coat of old-fashioned cut known
to provincials as a "Prince Albert" looked up from
where he was seated cross-legged upon the sofa,
sharpening a curved knife on a whetstone.
"Gutchlug," stammered Sanang, "I am afraid
of her I What happened two years ago at the temple
happened again a moment since, there in her very
bedroom! She made a yellow death-adder out of
nothing and placed it upon the threshold, and mocked
me with laughter. May Thirty Thousand Calami-
ties overtake her! May Erlik seize her! May her
30 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
eyes rot out and her limbs fester! May the seven
score and three principal devils "
"You chatter like a temple ape," said Gutchlug
tranquilly. "Does Keuke Mongol die or live? That
alone interests me."
"Gutchlug," faltered the young man, "thou know-
est that m-my heart is inclined to mercy toward this
young Yezidee "
"I know that it is inclined to lust," said the other
Sanang's pale face flamed.
"Listen," he said. "If I had not loved her better
than life had I dared go that day to the temple to
take her for my own?"
"You loved life better," said Gutchlug. "You fled
when it rained snakes on the temple steps you and
your Tchortcha horsemen ! Kai ! I also ran. But
I gave every soldier thirty blows with a stick before
I slept that night. And you should have had your
thirty, also, conforming to the Yarlig, my Tougtchi."
Sanang, still holding his hat and cane and carrying
his overcoat over his left arm, looked down at the
heavy, brutal features of Gutchlug Khan at the
cruel mouth with its crooked smile under the grizzled
beard; at the huge hands the powerful hands of
a murderer now deftly honing to a razor-edge the
Kalmuck knife held so firmly yet lightly in his great
"Listen attentively, Prince Sanang," growled
Gutchlug, pausing in his monotonous task to test the
THE YELLOW SNAKE 31
blade's edge on his thumb "Does the Yezidee
Keuke Mongol live? Yes or no?"
Sanang hesitated, moistened his pallid lips. "She
dares not betray us."
"By what pledge?"
"That is no pledge. You also were afraid, yet you
went to the temple !"
"She has listened to the Yarlig. She has looked
upon her shroud. She has admitted that she desires
to live. Therein lies her pledge to us."
"And she placed a yellow snake at your feet!"
sneered Gutchlug. "Prince Sanang, tell me, what
man or what devil in all the chronicles of the past has
ever tamed a Snow-Leopard?" And he continued to
hone his yataghan.
"No, she dies," said the other tranquilly.
"Gutchlug, thou knowest me. Hear my pledge !
At her first gesture toward treachery her first
thought of betrayal I myself will end it all."
"You promise to slay this young snow-leop-
"By the four companions, I swear to kill her with
my own hands !"
Gutchlug sneered. "Kill her yes with the kiss
that has burned thy lips to ashes for all these months.
32 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
I know thee, Sanang. Leave her to me. Dead she
will no longer trouble thee."
"I hear, Prince Sanang."
"Strike when I nod. Not until then."
"I hear, Tougtchi. I understand thee, my Ban-
neret. I whet my knife. Kai!"
Sanang looked at him, put on his top-hat and over-
coat, pulled on a pair of white evening gloves.
"I go forth," he said more pleasantly.
"I remain here to talk to my seven ancestors and
sharpen my knife," remarked Gutchlug.
"When the white world and the yellow world and
the brown world and the black world finally fall be-
fore the Hassanis," said Sanang with a quick smile,
"I shall bring thee to her. Gutchlug once before
she is veiled, thou shalt behold what is lovelier than
The other stolidly whetted his knife.
Sanang pulled out a gold cigarette case, lighted
a cigarette with an air.
"I go among Germans," he volunteered amiably.
"The huns swam across two oceans, but, like the
unclean swine, it is their own throats they cut when
they swim ! Well, there is only one God. And not
very many angels. Erlik is greater. And there are
many million devils to do his bidding. Adieu.
There is rice and there is koumiss in the frozen
closet. When I return you shall have been asleep for
THE YELLOW SNAKE 33
When Sanang left the hotel one of two young men
seated in the hotel lobby got up and strolled out
A few minutes later the other man went to the
elevator, ascended to the fourth floor, and entered
an apartment next to the one occupied by Sanang.
There was another man there, lying on the lounge
and smoking a cigar. Without a word, they both
went leisurely about the matter of disrobing for the
When the shorter man who had been in the apart-
ment when the other entered, and who was dark
and curly-headed, had attired himself in pyjamas,
he sat down on one of the twin beds to enjoy his
cigar to the bitter end.
"Has Sanang gone out?" he inquired in a low
"Yes. Benton went after him."
The other man nodded. "Cleves," he said, "I
guess it looks as though this Nome girl is in it, too."
"As soon as she arrived, Sanang made straight
for her apartment. He remained inside for half
an hour. Then he came out in a hurry and went
to his own rooms, where that surly servant of his.
squats all day, shining up his arsenal, and drinking
"Did you get their conversation?"
"I've got a record of the gibberish. It requires,
an interpreter, of course."
34 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"I suppose so. I'll take the records east with
me to-morrow, and by the same token I'd better
notify New York that I'm leaving."
He went, half-undressed, to the telephone, got the
telegraph office, and sent the following message :
"RECKLOW, New York:
"Leaving to-morrow for N. Y. with samples. Re-
tain expert in Oriental fabrics.
"Report for me, too," said the dark young man,
who was still enjoying his cigar on his pillows.
So Cleves sent another telegram, directed also to
"RECKLOW, New York:
"Benton and I are watching the market. Chinese
importations fluctuate. Recent consignment per Nan-
yang Maru will be carefully inspected and details
In the next room Gutchlug could hear the voice
of Cleves at the telephone, but he merely shrugged
his heavy shoulders in contempt. For he had other
things to do beside eavesdropping.
Also, for the last hour in fact, ever since
Sanang's departure something had been happening
to him something that happens to a Hassani only
once in a lifetime. And now this unique thing had
happened to him to him, Gutchlug Khan to him
THE YELLOW SNAKE 35
before whose Khiounnou ancestors eighty-one thou-
sand nations had bowed the knee.
It had come to him at last, this dread thing, un-
heralded, totally unexpected, a few minutes after
Sanang had departed.
And he suddenly knew he was going to die.
And, when, presently, he comprehended it, he bent
his grizzled head and listened seriously. And, after
a little silence, he heard his soul bidding him fare-
So the chatter of white men at a telephone in the
next apartment had no longer any significance for
him. Whether or not they had been spying on him ;
whether they were plotting, made no difference to
He tested his knife's edge with his thumb and
listened gravely to his soul bidding him farewell.
But, for a Yezidee, there was still a little detail
to attend to before his soul departed; two matters
to regulate. One was to select his shroud. The
other was to cut the white throat of this young snow-
leopardess called Keuke Mongol, the Yezidee temple
And he could steal down to her bedroom and finish
that matter in five minutes.
But first he must choose his shroud, as is the
custom of the Yezidee.
That office, however, was quickly accomplished in
a country where fine white sheets of linen are to be
found on every hotel bed.
36 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
So, on his way to the door, his naked knife in
his right hand, he paused to fumble under the bed-
covers and draw out a white linen sheet.
Something hurt his hand like a needle. He moved
it, felt the thing squirm under his fingers and pierce
his palm again and again. With a shriek, he tore the
bedclothes from the bed.
A little yellow snake lay coiled there.
He got as far as the telephone, but could not use
it. And there he fell heavily, shaking the room and
dragging the instrument down with him.
There was some excitement. Cleves and Selden
in their bathrobes went in to look at the body. The
hotel physician diagnosed it as heart-trouble. Or,
possibly, poison. Some gazed significantly at the
naked knife still clutched in the dead man's hands.
Around the wrist of the other hand was twisted
a pliable gold bracelet representing a little snake. It
had real emeralds for eyes.
It had not been there when Gutchlug died.
But nobody except Sanang could know that. And
later when Sanang came back and found Gutchlug
very dead on the bed and a policeman sitting outside,
he offered no information concerning the new brace-
let shaped like a snake with real emeralds for eyes,
which adorned the dead man's left wrist.
Toward evening, however, after an autopsy had
confirmed the house physician's diagnosis that heart-
disease had finished Gutchlug, Sanang mustered
THE YELLOW SNAKE 37
enough courage to go to the desk in the lobby and
send up his card to Miss Nome.
It appeared, however, that Miss Nome had left
for Chicago about noon.
) Victor Cleves came the following telegram
"April 1 4th. iQig.
"Investigation ordered by the State Department
as the result of frequent mention in despatches of
Chinese troops operating with the Russian Bolshe-
viki forces ha\s disclosed that the Bolsheviki are actu-
ally raising a Chinese division of 30,000 men re-
cruited in Central Asia. This division has been
guilty of the greatest cruelties. A strange rumour
prevails among the Allied forces at Archangel that
this Chinese division is led by Yezidee and Hassani
officers belonging to the sect of devil-worshipers and
that they employ black arts and magic in battle.
"From information so far gathered by the sev-
eral branches of the United States Secret Service
operating throughout the world, it appears possible
that the various revolutionary forces of disorder, in
Europe and Asia, which now are violently threaten-
ing the peace and security, of all established civilisa-
tion on earth, may have had a common origin. This
origin, it is now suspected, may date back to a very
remote epoch; the wide-spread forces of violence
and merciless destruction may have had their begin-
GREY MAGIC 39
ning among some ancient and predatory race whose
existence was maintained solely by robbery and mur-
t( Anarchists, terrorists, Bolshevists, Reds of all
shades and degrees, are now believed to represent in
modern times what perhaps once was a tribe of
Assassins a sect whose religion was founded upon
a common predilection for crimes of violence.
"On this theory then, for the present, the United
States Government will proceed with this investiga-
tion of Bolshevism; and the Secret Service will con-
tinue to pay particular attention to all Orientals in
the United States and other countries. You person-
ally are formally instructed to keep in touch with
XLY-37I (Alek Selden) and ZB-jos (James Ben-
ton), and to employ every possible means to become
friendly with the girl Tressa Nome, win her confi-
dence, mid, if possible, enlist her actively in the Gov-
ernment Service as your particular aid and comrade.
"It is equally important that the movements of the
Oriental, called Sanang, be carefully observed in or-
der to discover the identity and whereabouts of his
companions. However, until further instructions he
is not to be taken into custody. M. H. 2479.
The long despatch from John Recklow made
Cleves's duty plain enough.
For months, now, Selden and Benton had been
watching Tressa Nome. And they had learned
practically nothing about her.
And now the girl had come within Cleves's sphere
of operation. She had been in New York for two
weeks. Telegrams from Benton in Chicago, and
40 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
from Selden in Buffalo, had prepared him for her
He had his men watching her boarding-house on
West Twenty-eighth Street, men to follow her, men
to keep their eyes on her at the theatre, where every
evening, at 10 145, her entr'acte was staged. He knew
where to get her. But he, himself, had been on the
watch for the man Sanang; and had failed to find
the slightest trace of him in New York, although
warned that he had arrived.
So, for that evening, he left the hunt for Sanang
to others, put on his evening clothes, and dined with
fashionable friends at the Patroons' Club, who never
for an instant suspected that young Victor Cleves
was in the Service of the United States Government.
About half-past nine he strolled around to the
theatre, desiring to miss as much as possible of the
popular show without being too late to see the curious
little entr'acte in which this girl, Tressa Nome, ap-
He had secured an aisle seat near the stage at an
outrageous price; the main show was still thunder-
ing and fizzing and glittering as he entered the
theatre; so he stood in the rear behind the orchestra
until the descending curtain extinguished the out-
rageous glare and din.
Then he went down the aisle, and as he seated
himself Tressa Nome stepped from the wings and
stood before the lowered curtain facing an expectant
but oddly undemonstrative audience.
GREY MAGIC 41
The girl worked rapidly, seriously, and in silence.
She seemed a mere child there behind the footlights,
not more than sixteen anyway her winsome eyes
and wistful lips unspoiled by the world's wisdom.
Yet once or twice the mouth drooped for a second
and the winning eyes darkened to a remoter blue
the brooding iris hue of far horizons.
She wore the characteristic tabard of stiff golden
tissue and the gold pagoda-shaped headpiece of a
Yezidee temple girl. Her flat, slipper-shaped foot-
gear was of stiff gold, too, and curled upward at the
All this accentuated her apparent youth. For in
face and throat no firmer contours had as yet modi-
fied the soft fullness of immaturity; her limbs were
boyish and frail, and her bosom more undecided still,
so that the embroidered breadth of gold fell flat and
straight from her chest to a few inches above the
She seemed to have no stock of paraphernalia with
which to aid the performance; no assistant, no or-
chestral diversion, nor did she serve herself with
any magician's patter. She did her work close to
Behind her loomed a black curtain; the strip of
stage in front was bare even of carpet; the orches-
tra remained mute.
But when she needed anything a little table, for
example well, it was suddenly there where she re-
quired it a tripod, for instance, evidently fitted
42 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
to hold the big iridescent bubble of glass in
which swarmed little tropical fishes and which
arrived neatly from nowhere. She merely placed
her hands before her as though ready to support
something weighty which she expected and sud-
denly, the huge crystal bubble was visible, resting
between her hands. And when she tired of holding
it, she set it upon the empty air and let go of it;
and instead of crashing to the stage with its finny
rainbow swarm of swimmers, out of thin air ap-
peared a tripod to support it.
Applause followed, not very enthusiastic, for the
sort of audience which sustains the shows of which
her performance was merely an entr'acte is an au-
dience responsive only to the obvious.
Nobody ever before had seen that sort of magic
in America. People scarcely knew whether or not
they quite liked it. The lightning of innovation stu-
pefies the dull; ignorance is always suspicious of in-
novation always afraid to put itself on record until
its mind is made up by somebody else.
So in this typical New York audience approbation
was cautious, but every fascinated eye remained
focused on this young girl who continued to do in-
credible things, which seemed to resemble "putting
something over" on them; a thing which no unedu-
cated American conglomeration ever quite forgives.
The girl's silence, too, perplexed them ; they were
accustomed to gabble, to noise, to jazz, vocal and
instrumental, to that incessant metropolitan clamour
GREY MAGIC 43
which fills every second with sound in a city whose
only distinction is its din. Stage, press, art, letters,
social existence unless noisy mean nothing in Goth-
am; reticence, leisure, repose are the three lost arts.
The megaphone is the city's symbol; its chief est
The girl having finished with the big glass bubble
full of tiny fish, picked it up and tossed it aside. For
a moment it apparently floated there in space like
a soap-bubble. Changing rainbow tints waxed and
waned on the surface, growing deeper and more gor-
geous until the floating globe glowed scarlet, then
suddenly burst into flame and vanished. And only a
strange, sweet perfume lingered in the air.
But she gave her perplexed audience no time to
wonder; she had seated herself on the stage and was
already swiftly busy unfolding a white veil with
which she presently covered herself, draping it over
her like a tent.
The veil seemed to be translucent; she was appar-
ently visible seated beneath it. But the veil turned
into smoke, rising into the air in a thin white cloud;
and there, where she had been seated, was a statue
of white stone the image of herself ! in all the frail
springtide of early adolescence a white statue, cold,
opaque, exquisite in its sculptured immobility.
There came, the next moment, a sound of distant
thunder; flashes lighted the blank curtain; and sud-
denly a vein of lightning and a sharper peal shattered
the statue to fragments.
44. THE SLAYER OF SOULS
There they lay, broken bits of her own sculptured
body, glistening in a heap behind the footlights.
Then each fragment began to shimmer with a rosy
internal light of its own, until the pile of broken
marble glowed like living coals under thickening and
reddening vapours. And, presently, dimly percep-
tible, there she was in the flesh again, seated in the
fiery centre of the conflagration, stretching her arms
luxuriously, yawning, seemingly awakening from re-
freshing slumber, her eyes unclosing to rest with a
sort of confused apology upon her astounded au-
As she rose to her feet nothing except herself re-
mained on the stage no debris, not a shred of
smoke, not a spark.
She came down, then, across an inclined plank into
the orchestra among the audience.
In the aisle seat nearest her sat Victor Cleves.
His business was to be there that evening. But she
didn't know that, knew nothing about him had
never before set eyes on him.
At her gesture of invitation he made a cup of both
his hands. Into these she poured a double handful
of unset diamonds or what appeared to be dia-
monds pressed her own hands above his for a
second and the diamonds in his palms had become
These were passed around to people in the vicinity,
and finally returned to Mr. Cleves, who, at her re-
quest, covered the heap of pearls with both his hands,
hiding them entirely from view.
GREY MAGIC 45
At her nod he uncovered them. The pearls had
become emeralds. Again, while he held them, and
without even touching him, she changed them into
rubies. Then she turned away from him, apparently
forgetting that he still held the gems, and he sat
very still, one cupped hand over the other, while she
poured silver coins into a woman's gloved hands,
turned them into gold coins, then flung each coin into
the air, where it changed to a living, fragrant rose
and fell among the audience.
Presently she seemed to remember Cleves, came
back down the aisle, and under his close and intent
gaze drew from his cupped hands, one by one, a
score of brilliant little living birds, which continually
flew about her and finally perched, twittering, on her
golden headdress a rainbow-crest of living jewels.
As she drew the last warm, breathing little feath-
ered miracle from Cleves's hands and released it, he
said rapidly under his breath: "I want a word with
you later. Where?"
She let her clear eyes rest on him for a moment,
then with a shrug so slight that it was perceptible,
perhaps, only to him, she moved on along the in-
clined way, stepped daintily over the footlights,
caught fire, apparently, nodded to a badly rattled
audience, and sauntered off, burning from head to
What applause there was became merged in a
dissonant instrumental outburst from the orchestra;
the great god Jazz resumed direction, the mindless
46 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
audience breathed freely again as the curtain rose
upon a familiar, yelling turbulence, including all that
Gotham really understands and cares for legs and
Victor Cleves glanced up at the stage, then con-
tinued to study the name of the girl on the pro-
gramme. It was featured in rather pathetic solitude
under "Entr'acte." And he read further: "During
the entr'acte Miss Tressa Nome will entertain you
with several phases of Black Magic. This
strange knowledge was acquired by Miss Nome
from the Yezidees, among which almost unknown
people still remain descendants of that notorious and
formidable historic personage known in the twelfth
century as The Old Man of the Mountain or The
Old Man of Mount Alamout.
"The pleasant profession of this historic indi-
vidual was assassination; and some historians now
believe that genuine occult power played a part in
his dreadful record a record which terminated only
when the infantry of Genghis Khan took Mount Ala-
mout by storm and hanged the Old Man of the
Mountain and burned his body under a boulder of
"For Miss Nome's performance there appears to
be no plausible, practical or scientific explanation.
"During her performance the curtain will remain
lowered for fifteen minutes and will then rise on the
last act of 'You Betcha Life.' "
The noisy show continued while Cleves, paying it
GREY MAGIC 47
scant attention, brooded over the programme. And
ever his keen, grey eyes reverted to her name, Tressa
Then, for a little while, he settled back and let
his absent gaze wander over the galloping battalions
of painted girls and the slapstick principals whose
perpetual motion evoked screams of approbation
from the audience amid the din of the great god
He had an aisle seat; he disturbed nobody when
he went out and around to the stage door.
The aged man on duty took his card, called a boy
and sent it off. The boy returned with the card,
saying that Miss Nome had already dressed and de-
Cleves tipped him and then tipped the doorman
"Where does she live?" he asked.
"Say," said the old man, "I dunno, and that's
straight. But them ladies mostly goes up to the
roof for a look in at the 'Moonlight Masnue' and
a dance afterward. Was you ever up there?"
"Seen the new show?"
"Well, g'wan up while you can get a table. And
I bet the little girl will be somewheres around."
"The little girl" was "somewheres around." He
secured a table, turned and looked about at the vast
cabaret into which only a few people had yet filtered,
48 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
and saw her at a distance in the carpeted corridor
buying violets from one of the flower-girls.
A waiter placed a reserve card on his table ; he con-
tinued on around the outer edge of the auditorium.
Miss Nome had already seated herself at a small
table in the rear, and a waiter was serving her with
iced orange juice and little French cakes.
When the waiter returned Cleves went up and
took off his hat.
"May I talk with you for a moment, Miss
Nome?" he said.
The girl looked up, the wheat-straw still between
her scarlet lips. Then, apparently recognising in him
the young man in the audience who had spoken to
her, she resumed her business of imbibing orange
The girl seemed even frailer and younger in her
hat and street gown. A silver-fox stole hung from
her shoulders ; a gold bag lay on the table under the
bunch of violets.
She paid no attention whatever to him. Presently
her wheat-straw buckled, and she selected a better
He said: "There's something rather serious I'd
like to speak to you about if you'll let me. I'm not
the sort you evidently suppose. I'm not trying to
At that she looked around and upward once more.
Very, very young, but already spoiled, he thought,
for the dark-blue eyes were coolly appraising him,
GREY MAGIC 49
and the droop of the mouth had become almost sul-
len. Besides, traces of paint still remained to incar-
nadine lip and cheek and there was a hint of hard-
ness in the youthful plumpness of the features.
"Are you a professional?" she asked without curi-
"A theatrical man? No."
"Then if you haven't anything to offer me, what is
it you wish?"
"I have a job to offer if you care for it and if
you are up to it," he said.
Her eyes became slightly hostile :
"What kind of job do you mean?"
"I want to learn something about you first. Will
you come over to my table and talk it over?"
"What sort do you suppose me to be?" he in-
"The usual sort, I suppose."
"You mean a Johnny?"
"Yes of sorts."
She let her insolent eyes sweep him once more v
from head to foot.
He was a well-built young man and in his evening
dress he had that something about him which placed
him very definitely where he really belonged.
"Would you mind looking at my card?" he asked.
He drew it out and laid it beside her, and without
stirring she scanned it sideways.
"That's my name and address," he continued. "I'm
50 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
not contemplating mischief. I've enough excitement
in life without seeking adventure. Besides, I'm not
the sort who goes about annoying women."
She glanced up at him again :
"You are annoying me !"
"I'm sorry. I was quite honest. Good-night."
He took his conge with unhurried amiability; had
already turned away when she said:
"Please . . . what do you desire to say to me?"
He came back to her table :
"I couldn't tell you until I know a little more about
"What do you wish to know?"
"Several things. I could scarcely ask you go
over such matters with you standing here."
There was a pause ; the girl juggled with the straw
on the table for a few moments, then, partly turn-
ing, she summoned a waiter, paid him, adjusted her
stole, picked up her gold bag and her violets and
stood up. Then she turned to Cleves and gave him
a direct look, which had in it the impersonal and
searching gaze of a child.
When they were seated at the table reserved for
him the place already was filling rapidly backwash
from the theatres slopped through every aisle
people not yet surfeited with noise, not yet suffi-
ciently sodden by their worship of the great god
"Jazz," said Cleves, glancing across his dinner-
card at Tressa Nome "what's the meaning of the
word? Do you happen to know?"
GREY MAGIC 51
"Doesn't it come from the French ^aser'f"
He smiled. "Possibly. I'm rather hungry. Are
"Will you indicate your preferences?"
She studied her card, and presently he gave the
"I'd like some champagne," she said, "unless you
think it's too expensive."
He smiled at that, too, and gave the order.
"I didn't suggest any wine because you seem so
young," he said.
"How old do I seem?"
"I am twenty-one."
"Then you've had no troubles. 5 '
"I don't know what you call i ">uble," she re-
marked, indifferently, watching the a* 'ving throngs.
The orchestra, too, had taken its pla . ,
"Well," she said, "now that you've picked me up,
what do you really want of me?" There was no
mitigating smile to soften what she said. She
dropped her elbows on the table, rested her chin
between her palms and looked at him with the same
searching, undisturbed expression that is so discon-
certing in children. As he made no reply: "May I
have a cocktail?" she inquired.
He gave the order. And his mind registered pes-
simism. "There is nothing doing with this girl,"
he thought. "She's already on the toboggan." But
52 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
he said aloud: "That was beautiful work you did
down in the theatre, Miss Nome."
"Did you think so?"
"Of course. It was astounding work."
"Thank you. But managers and audiences differ
"Then they are very stupid," he said.
"Possibly. But that does not help me pay my
"Do you mean you have trouble in securing the-
"Yes, I am through here to-night, and there's
nothing else in view, so far."
"That's incredible I" he exclaimed.
She lifted her glass, slowly drained it.
For a few moments she caressed the stem of the
empty glass, her gaze remote.
"Yes, it's that way," she said. "From the begin-
ning I felt that my audiences were not in sympathy
with me. Sometimes it even amounts to hostility.
Americans do not like what I do, even if it holds
their attention. I don't quite understand why they
don't like it, but I'm always conscious they don't.
And of course that settles it to-night has settled the
whole thing, once and for all."
"What are you going to do?"
"What others do, I presume."
"What do others do?" he inquired, watching the
lovely sullen eyes.
"Oh, they do what I'm doing now, don't they? '
GREY MAGIC 53
let some man pick them up and feed them." She
lifted her indifferent eyes. "I'm not criticising you.
I meant to do it some day when I had courage.
That's why I just asked you if I might have some
champagne finding myself a little scared at my first
step. . . . But you did say you might have a job
for me. Didn't you?"
"Suppose I haven't. What are you going to do?"
The curtain was rising. She nodded toward the
bespangled chorus. "Probably that sort of thing.
They've asked me."
Supper was served. They both were hungry and
thirsty; the music made conversation difficult, so
they supped in silence and watched the imbecile show
conceived by vulgarians, produced by vulgarians and
served up to mental degenerates of the same species
the average metropolitan audience.
For ten minutes a pair of comedians fell up and
down a flight of steps, and the audience shrieked ap-
The girl who had been watching the show turned
in her chair and looked back at him.
"Your magic is by far the most wonderful I have
ever seen or heard of. Even in India such things
are not done."
"No, not in India," she said, indifferently.
"You learned to do such things there?"
54 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"Where, in China, did you learn such amazing
"I never heard of it. Is it a province?"
"And you lived there?"
"From 1904 to 1918."
"During the great war," he remarked, "you were
"Then you arrived here very recently."
"In^November, from the Coast."
"I see. You played the theatres from the Coast
"And went to pieces in New York," she added
calmly, finishing her glass of champagne.
"Have you any family?" he asked.
"Do you care to say anything further?" he in-
"About my family? Yes, if you wish. My father
was in the spice trade in Yian. The Yezidees took
Yian in 1910, threw him into a well in his own com-
pound and filled it up with dead imperial troops. I
was thirteen years old. . . . The Hassani did that.
They held Yian nearly eight years, and I lived with
my mother, in a garden pagoda, until 1914. In
GREY MAGIC 55
January of that year Germans got through from
Kiaou-Chou. They had been six months on the way.
I think they were Hassanis. Anyway, they persuaded
the Hassanis to massacre every English-speaking
prisoner. And so my mother died in the garden
pagoda of Yian. ... I was not told for four
"Why did they spare you?" he asked, astonished
at her story so quietly told, so utterly destitute of
"I was seventeen. A certain person had placed
me among the temple girls in the temple of Erlik.
It pleased this person to make of me a Mongol
temple girl as a mockery at Christ. They gave me
the name Keuke Mongol. I asked to serve the shrine
of Kwann-an she being like to our Madonna. But
this person gave me the choice between the halberds
of the Tchortchas and the sorcery of Erlik."
She lifted her sombre eyes. "So I learned how to
do the things you saw. But what I did there on the
stage is not respectable."
An odd shiver passed over him. For a second he
took her literally, suddenly convinced that her magic
was not white but black as the demon at whose shrine
she had learned it. Then he smiled and asked her
pleasantly, whether indeed she employed hypnosis in
her miraculous exhibitions.
But her eyes became more sombre still, and, "I
don't care to talk about it," she said. "I have al-
ready said too much."
56 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to pry into profes-
sional secrets "
"I can't talk about it," she repeated. ". . . Please
my glass is quite empty."
When he had refilled it:
"How did you get away from Yian?" he asked.
"Yes. One battle was fought at Buldak. The
Hassanis and Blue Flags were terribly cut up. Then,
outside the walls of Yian, Prince Sanang's Tchortcha
infantry made a stand. He was there with his Yezi-
dee horsemen, all in leather and silk armour with
casques and corselets of black Indian steel.
"I could see them from the temple saw the Jap-
anese gunners open fire. The Tchortchas were
blown to shreds in the blast of the Japanese guns.
. . . Sanang got away with some of his Yezidee
"Where was that battle?"
"I told you, outside the walls of Yian."
"The newspapers never mentioned any such trou-
ble in China," he said, suspiciously.
"Nobody knows about it except the Germans and
"Who is this Sanang?" he demanded.
"A Yezidee-Mongol. He is one of the Sheiks-el-
Djebel a servant of The Old Man of Mount Ala-
"What is he?"
GREY MAGIC 57
"A sorcerer assassin."
"What!" exclaimed Cleves incredulously.
"Why, yes," she said, calmly. "Have you never
heard of The Old Man of Mount Alamout?"
"Well, yes "
"The succession has been unbroken since 1090 B.C.
A Hassan Sabbah is still the present Old Man of the
Mountain. His Yezidees worship Erlik. They are
sorcerers. But you would not believe that."
Cleves said with a smile, "Who is Erlik?"
"The Mongols' Satan."
"Oh! So these Yezidees are devil-worshipers!"
"They are more. They are actually devils."
"You don't really believe that even in unexplored
China there exists such a creature as a real sorcerer,
do you?" he inquired, smilingly.
"I don't wish to talk of it."
To his surprise her face had flushed, and he
thought her sensitive mouth quivered a little.
He watched her in silence for a moment; then,
leaning a little way across the table:
"Where are you going when the show here
"To my boarding-house."
"To bed," she said, sullenly.
"And to-morrow what do you mean to do?"
"Go out to the agencies and ask for work."
"And if there is none?"
"The chorus," she said, indifferently.
58 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"What salary have you been getting?"
She told him.
"Will you take three times that amount and work
BODY AND SOUL
THE girl's direct gaze met his with that merci-
less searching intentness he already knew.
"What do you wish me to do?"
"Enter the service of the United States."
"Work for the Government."
She was too taken aback to answer.
"Where were you born?" he demanded abruptly.
"In Albany, New York," she replied in a dazed
"You are loyal to your country?"
"You would not betray her?"
"I don't mean for money; I mean from fear."
After a moment, and, avoiding his gaze: "I am
afraid of death," she said very simply.
"I I don't know w'hat I might do being
afraid," she added in a troubled voice. "I desire to
He still waited.
60 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
She lifted her eyes: "I'd try not to betray my
country," she murmured.
"Try to face death for your country's honour?"
"And for your own?"
"Yes; and for my own."
He leaned nearer: "Yet you're taking a chance on
your own honour to-night."
She blushed brightly: "I didn't think I was taking
a very great chance with you."
He said: "You have found life too hard. And
when you faced failure in New York you began to
let go of life real life, I mean. And you came up
here to-night wondering whether you had courage
to let yourself go. When I spoke to you it scared
you. You found you hadn't the courage. But per-
haps to-morrow you might find it or next week
if sufficiently scared by hunger you might venture
to take the first step along the path that you say
others usually take sooner or later."
The girl flushed scarlet, sat looking at him out of
eyes grown dark with anger.
He said: "You told me an untruth. You have
been tempted to betray your country. You have re-
sisted. You have been threatened with death. You
have had courage to defy threats and temptations
where your country's honour was concerned !"
"How do you know?" she demanded.
He continued, ignoring the question: "From the
time you landed in San Francisco you have been
threatened. You tried to earn a living by your ma-
BODY AND SOUL 61
gician's tricks, but in city after city, as you came
East, your uneasiness grew into fear, and your fear
into terror, because every day more terribly con-
firmed your belief that people were following you de-
termined either to use you to their own purposes or
to murder you "
The girl turned quite white and half rose in her
chair, then sank back, staring at him out of dilated
eyes. Then Cleves smiled: "So you've got the nerve
to do Government work," he said, "and you've got
the intelligence, and the knowledge, and something
else I don't know exactly what to call it Skill?
Dexterity? Sorcery?" he smiled "I mean your
professional ability. That's what I want that be-
wildering dexterity of yours, to help your own coun-
try in the fight of its life. Will you enlist for ser-
"W-what fight?" she asked faintly.
"The fight with the Red Spectre."
"Yes . . . Are you ready to leave this place? I
want to talk to you."
"In my own rooms."
After a moment she rose.
"I'll go to yaur rooms with you," she said. She
added very calmly that she was glad it was to be his
rooms and not some other man's.
Out of countenance, he demanded what she meant,
and she said quite candidly that she'd made up her
62 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
mind to live at any cost, and that if she couldn't
make an honest living she'd make a living anyway.
He offered no reply to this until they had reached
the street and he had called a taxi.
On their way to his apartment he re-opened the
subject rather bluntly, remarking that life was not
worth living at the price she had mentioned.
"That is the accepted Christian theory," she re-
plied coolly, "but circumstances alter things."
"Not such things."
"Oh, yes, they do. If one is already damned, what
difference does anything else make?"
He asked, sarcastically, whether she considered
herself already damned.
She did not reply for a few moments, then she
said, in a quick, breathless way, that souls have been
entrapped through ignorance of evil. And asked
him if he did not believe it.
"No," he said, "I don't."
She shook her head. "You couldn't understand,"
she said. "But I've made up my mind to one thing;
even if my soul has perished, my body shall not die
for a long, long time. I mean to live," she added.
"I shall not let my body be slain ! They shall not
steal life from me, whatever they have done to my
"What in heaven's name are you talking about?"
he exclaimed. "Do you actually believe in .soul-
snatchers and life-stealers?"
She seemed sullen, her profile turned to him, her
eyes on the brilliantly lighted avenue up which they
BODY AND SOUL 63
were speeding. After a while : "I'd rather live de-
cently and respectably if I can," she said. "That is
the natural desire of any girl, I suppose. But if I
can't, nevertheless I shall beat off death at any cost.
And whatever the price of life is, I shall pay it.
Because I am absolutely determined to go on living.
And if I can't provide the means I'll have to let
some man do it, I suppose."
"It's a good thing it was I who found you when
you were out of a job," he remarked coldly.
"I hope so," she said. "Even in the beginning I
didn't really believe you meant to be impertinent"
a tragic smile touched her lips "and I was almost
"Are you quite crazy?" he demanded.
"No, my mind is untouched. It's my soul that's
gone. . . . Do you know I was very hungry when
you spoke to me? The management wouldn't ad-
vance anything, and my last money went for my
room. . . . Last Monday I had three dollars to
face the future and no job. I spent the last of it
to-night on violets, orange juice and cakes. My furs
and my gold bag remain. I can go two months
more on them. Then it's a job or " She
shrugged and buried her nose in her violets.
"Suppose I advance you a month's salary?" he
"What am I to do for it?"
The taxi stopped at a florist's on the corner of
Madison Avenue and 58th Street. Overhead were
apartments. There was no elevator merely the
64 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
street door to unlock and four dim nights of stairs
rising steeply to the top.
He lived on the top floor. As they paused before
his door in the dim corridor:
"Are you afraid?" he asked.
She came nearer, laid a hand on his arm:
"Are you afraid?"
He stood silent, the latch-key in his hand.
"I'm not afraid of myself if that is what you
mean," he said.
"That is partly what I mean . . . you'll have to
mount guard over your soul."
"I'll look out for my soul," he retorted dryly.
"Do so. I lost mine. I I would not wish any
harm to yours through our companionship."
"Don't you worry about my soul," he remarked,
fitting the key to the lock. But again her hand fell
on his wrist:
"Wait. I can't can't help warning you. Neither
your soul nor your body are safe if if you ever
do make of me a companion. I've got to tell you
"What are you talking about?" he demanded
"Because you have been courteous considerate
and you don't know oh, you don't realise what
spiritual peril is! What your soul and body have
to fear if you if you win me over if you ever
manage to make of me a friend!"
He said: "People follow and threaten you. We
know that. I understand also that association with
BODY AND SOUL 65
you involves me, and that I shall no doubt be
menaced with bodily harm."
He laid his hand on hers where it still rested on
"But that's my business, Miss Nome," he added
with a smile. "So, otherwise, it being merely a plain
business affair between you and me, I think I may
also venture my immortal soul alone with you in my
The girl flushed darkly.
"You have misunderstood," she said.
He looked at her coolly, intently; and arrived at
no conclusion. Young, very lovely, confessedly with-
out moral principle, he still could not believe her ac-
tually depraved. "What did you mean?" he said
"In companionship with the lost, one might lose
one's way unawares. . . . Do you know that there
is an Evil loose in the world which is bent upon con-
quest by obtaining control of men's minds?"
"No," he replied, amused.
"And that, through the capture of men's minds
and souls the destruction of civilisation is being
"Is that what you learned in your captivity, Miss
"You do not believe me."
"I believe your terrible experiences in China have
shaken you to your tragic little soul Horror and
grief and loneliness have left scars on tender, impres-
sionable youth. They would have slain maturity
66 THE SLAYER OF 9OLS
broken it, crushed it. But youth is flexible, pliable,
and bends gives way under pressure. Scars be-
come slowly effaced. It shall be so with you. You
will learn to understand that nothing really can harm
For a few moments' silence they stood facing each
other on the dim landing outside his locked door.
"Nothing can slay our souls," he repeated in a
grave voice. "I do not believe you really ever have
done anything to wound even your self-respect. I do
not believe you are capable of it, or ever have been,
or ever will be. But somebody has deeply wounded
you, spiritually, and has wounded your mind to per-
suade you that your soul is no longer in God's keep-
ing. For that is a lie!"
He saw her features working with poignant emo-
tions as though struggling to believe him.
"Souls are never lost," he said. "Ungoverned
passions of every sort merely cripple them for a
space. God always heals them in the end."
He laid his hand on the door-knob once more
and lifted the latch-key.
"Don't!" she whispered, catching his hand again,
"if there should be somebody in there waiting for
"There is not a soul in my rooms. My servant
"There is somebody there !" she said, trembling.
"Nobody, Miss Nome. Will you come in with
"I don't dare ,"
BODY AND SOUL 67
"You and I alone together no! oh, please
please ! I am afraid !"
"Of giving you my c-confidence and trust-
and and f-friendship."
"I want you to."
"I must not! It would destroy us both, soul and
"I tell you," he said, impatiently, "that there is
no destruction of the soul and it's a clean comrade-
ship anyway a fighting friendship I ask of you all
I ask; all I offer! Wherein, then, lies this peril in
being alone together?"
"Because I am finding it in my heart "to believe in
you, trust you, hold fast to your strength and pro-
tection. And if I give way yield and if I make
you a promise and if there is anybody in that room
to see us and hear us then we shall be destroyed,
both of us, soul and body "
He took her hands, held them until their trembling
"I'll answer for our bodies. Let God look after
the rest. Will you trust Him?"
But her face blanched as he turned the latch-key,
switched on the electric light, and preceded her into
the room beyond.
The place was one of those accentless, typical
THE SLAYER OF SOULS
bachelor apartments made comfortable for anything
masculine, but quite unlivable otherwise.
Live coals still glowed in the hob grate ; he placed
a lump of cannel coal on the embers, used a bellows
vigorously and the flame caught with a greasy
The girl stood motionless until he pulled up an
easy chair for her, then he found another for him-
self. She let slip her furs, folded her hands around
the bunch of violets and waited.
"Now," he said, "I'll come to the point. In 1916
I was at Plattsburg, expecting a commission. The
Department of Justice sent for me. I went to Wash-
ington where I was made to understand that I had
been selected to serve my country in what is vaguely
known as the Secret Service and which includes
government agents attached to several departments.
"The great war is over; but I am still retained in
the service. Because something more sinister than
a hun victory over civilisation threatens this Repub-
lic. And threatens the civilised world."
"Anarchy," she said.
She did not stir in her chair.
She had become very white. She said nothing. He
looked at her with his quiet, reassuring smile.
"That's what I want of you," he repeated.
"I want your help," he went on, "I want your
valuable knowledge of the Orient. I want whatever
secret information you possess. I want your rather
amazing gifts, your unprecedented experience
BODY AND SOUL 69
almost unknown people, your familiarity with occult
things, your astounding powers whatever they are
hypnotic, psychic, material.
"Because, to-day, civilisation is engaged in a se-
cret battle for existence against gathering powers of
violence, the force and limit of which are still un-
"It is a battle between righteousness and evil, be-
tween sanity and insanity, light and darkness, God
and Satan! And if civilisation does not win, then
the world perishes."
She raised her still eyes to his, but made no other
"Miss Nome," he said, "we in the International
Service know enough about you to desire to know
"We already knew the story you have told to me.
Agents in the International Secret Service kept in
touch with you from the time that the Japanese es-
corted you out of China.
"From the day you landed, and all across the
Continent to New York, you have been kept in view
by agents of this government.
"Here, in New York, my men have kept in touch
with you. And now, to-night, the moment has come
for a personal understanding between you and me."
The girl's pale lips moved became stiffly articu-
late: "I I wish to live," she stammered, "I fear
"I know it. I know what I ask when I ask your
70 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
She said in the ghost of a voice : "If I turn against
them they will kill me."
"They'll try," he said quietly.
"They will not fail, Mr. Cleves."
"That is in God's hands."
She became deathly white at that.
"No," she burst out in an agonised voice, "it is
not in God's hands! If it were, I should not be
afraid! It is in the hands of those who stole my
She covered her face with both arms, fairly writh-
ing on her chair.
"If the Yezidees have actually made you believe
any such nonsense" he began; but she dropped her
arms and stared at him out of terrible blue eyes :
"I don't want to die, I tell you! I am afraid!
afraid/ If I reveal to you what I know they'll kill
me. If I turn against them and aid you, they'll slay
my body, and send it after my soul!"
She was trembling so violently that he sprang up
and went to her. After a moment he passed one
arm around her shoulders and held her firmly, close
"Come," he said, "do your duty. Those who en-
list under the banner of Christ have nothing to dread
in this world or the next."
"If if I could believe I were safe there."
"I tell you that you are. So is every human soul !
What mad nonsense have the Yezidees made you
believe? Is there any surer salvation for the soul
than to die in Christ's service?"
BODY AND SOUL 71
He slipped his arm from her quivering shoulders
and grasped both her hands, crushing them as though
to steady every fibre in her tortured body.
"I want you to live. I want to live, too. But I
tell you it's in God's hands, and we soldiers of civili-
sation have nothing to fear except failure to do our
duty. Now, then, are we comrades under the United
"OGod I dare not!"
Perhaps she felt the physical pain of his crushing
grip for she turned and looked him in the eyes.
"I don't want to die," she whispered. "Don't
"Will you help your country?"
The terrible directness of her child's gaze became
almost unendurable to him.
"Will you offer your country your soul and body?"
he insisted in a low, tense voice.
Her stiff lips formed a word.
"Yes!" he exclaimed.
For a moment she rested against his shoulder,
deathly white, then in a flash she had straightened,
was on her feet in one bound and so swiftly that he
scarcely followed her movement was unaware that
she had risen until he saw her standing there with
a pistol glittering in her hand, her eyes fixed on the
portieres that hung across the corridor leading to his
"What on earth," he began, but she interrupted
72 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
him, keeping her gaze focused on the curtains, and
the pistol resting level on her hip.
"I'll answer you if I die for it!" she cried. "I'll
tell you everything I know ! You wish to learn what
is this monstrous evil that threatens the world with
destruction what you call anarchy and Bolshevism?
It is an Evil that was born before Christ came!^ It
is an Evil which not only destroys cities and empires
and men but which is more terrible still for it obtains
control of the human mind, and uses it at will; and
it obtains sovereignty over the soul, and makes it
prisoner. Its aim is to dominate first, then to de-
stroy. It was conceived in the beginning by Erlik
and by Sorcerers and devils. . . . Always, from the
first, there have been sorcerers and living devils.
"And when human history began to be remem-
bered and chronicled, devils were living who wor-
shiped Erlik and practised sorcery.
"They have been called by many names. A thou-
sand years before Christ Hassan Sabbah founded his
sect called Hassanis or Assassins. The Yezidees are
of them. Their Chief is still called Sabbah; their
creed is the annihilation of civilisation!"
Cleves had risen. The girl spoke in a clear, ac-
centless monotone, not looking at him, her eyes and
pistol centred on the motionless curtains.
"Look out!" she cried sharply.
"What is the matter?" he demanded. "Do you
suppose anybody is hidden behind that curtain in
BODY AND SOUL 73
"If there is," she replied in her excited but dis-
tinct voice, "here is a tale to entertain him :
"The Hassanis are a sect of assassins which has
spread out of Asia all over the world, and they are
determined upon the annihilation of everything and
everybody in it except themselves!
"In Germany is a branch of the sect. The hun is
the lineal descendant of the ancient Yezidee; the
gods of the hun are the old demons under other
names; the desire and object of the hun is the same
desire to rule the minds and bodies and souls of
men and use them to their own purposes!"
She lifted her pistol a little, came a pace forward:
"Anarchist, Yezidee, Hassani, Boche, Bolshevik
all are the same all are secretly swarming in the
hidden places for the same purpose!"
The girl's blue eyes were aflame, now, and the
pistol was lifting slowly in her hand to a deadly level.
"Sanang!" she cried in a terrible voice.
"Sanang!" she cried again in her terrifying young
voice "Toad! Tortoise egg! Spittle of Erlik!
May the Thirty Thousand Calamities overtake you !
Sheik-el-Djebel ! cowardly Khan whom I laughed
at from the temple when it rained yellow snakes
on the marble steps when all the gongs in Yian
sounded in your frightened ears!"
"What! You won't step out? Tokhtaf" she ex-
claimed in a ringing tone, and made a swift motion
with her left hand. Apparently out of her empty
open palm, like a missile hurled, a thin, blinding
74 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
beam of light struck the curtains, making them sud-
A man stood there.
He came out, moving very slowly as though partly
stupefied. He wore evening dress under his over-
coat, and had a long knife in his right hand.
"So I really was to die then, if I came here,"
said the girl in a wondering way.
Sanang's stealthy gaze rested on her, stole toward
Cleves. He moistened his lips with his tongue. "You
deliver me to this government agent?" he asked
"I deliver nobody by treachery. You may go,
He hesitated, a graceful, faultless, metropolitan
figure in top-hat and evening attire. Then, as he
started to move, Cleves covered him with his weapon.
"I can't let that man go free!" cried Cleves
"Very well!" she retorted in a passionate voice
"then take him if you are able ! Tokhta! Look out
Something swift as lightning struck the pistol from
his grasp, blinded him, half stunned him, set him
reeling in a drenching blaze of light that blotted out
He heard the door slam; he stumbled, caught at
the back of a chair while his senses and sight were
"By heavens!" he whispered with ashen lips, "you
BODY AND SOUL 75
you are a sorceressr or something. What what
are you doing to me ?'*
There was no answer. And when his vision
cleared a little more he saw her crouched on the floor,
her head against the locked door, listening, perhaps
or sobbing he scarcely understood which until
the quiver of her shoulders made it plainer.
When at last Cleves went to her and bent over and
touched her she looked up at him out of wet eyes,
and her grief-drawn mouth quivered.
"I I don't know," she sobbed, "if he truly stole
away my soul there there in the temple dusk of
Yian. But he he stole my heart for all his wick-
edness Sanang, Prince of the Yezidees and I have
been fighting him for it all these years all these
long years fighting for what he stole in the temple
dusk! . . . And now now I have it back my
heart all broken to pieces here on the ioor be-
hind your your bolted door."
ON the wall hung a map of Mongolia, that
indefinite region a million and a half square
miles in area, vast sections of which have
never been explored.
Turkestan and China border it on the south, and
Tibet almost touches it, not quite.
Even in the twelfth century, when the wild Mon-
gols broke loose and nearly overran the world, the
Tibet infantry under Genghis, the Tchortcha horse-
men drafted out of Black China, and a great cloud
of Mongol cavalry under the Prince of the Van-
guard commanding half a hundred Hezars, never
penetrated that grisly and unknown waste. The
"Eight Towers of the Assassins" guarded it still
guard it, possibly.
The vice-regent of Erlik, Prince of Darkness,
dwelt within this unknown land. And dwells there
In front of this wall-map stood Tressa Nome.
Behind her, facing the map, four men were seated
three of them under thirty.
These three were volunteers in the service of the
United States Government men of independent
THE ASSASSINS 77
means, of position, who had volunteered for military
duty at the outbreak of the great war. However,
they had been assigned by the Government to a very
different sort of duty no less exciting than service
on the fighting line, but far less conspicuous, for
they had been drafted into the United States De-
partment of Justice.
The names of these three were Victor Cleves, a
professor of ornithology at Harvard University be-
fore the war ; Alexander Selden, junior partner in the
hanking firm of Milwyn, Selden, and Co., and James
Benton, a~NewYork architect.
The fourth man's name was John Recklow. He
might have been over fifty, or under. He was well-
built, in a square, athletic way, clear-skinned and
ruddy, grey-eyed, quiet in voice and manner. His
hair and moustache had turned silvery. He had been
employed by the Government for many years. He
seemed to be enormously interested in what Miss
Nome was saying.
Also he was the only man who interrupted her
narrative to ask questions. And his questions re-
vealed a knowledge which was making the girl more
sensitive and uneasv every moment.
Finally, when she spoke of the Scarlet Desert, he
asked if the Scarlet Lake were there and if the Xin
was still supposed to inhabit its vermilion depths.
And at that she turned and looked at him, her fore-
finger still resting on the map.
"Where have you ever heard of the Scarlet Lake
and the Xin?" she asked as though frightened.
78 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
Recklow said quietly that as a boy he had served
under Gordon and Sir Robert.
"If, as a boy, you served under Chinese Gordon,
you already know much of what I have told you,
Mr. Recklow. Is it not true?" she demanded ner-
"That makes no difference," he replied with a
smile. "It is all very new to these three young gen-
tlemen. And as for myself, I am checking up what
you say and comparing it with what I heard many,
many years ago when my comrade Barres and I
were in Yian."
"Did you really know Sir Robert Hart?"
"Then why do you not explain to these gentle-
"Dear child," he interrupted gently, "what did
Chinese Gordon or Sir Robert Hart, or even my
comrade Barres, or I myself know about occult Asia
in comparison to what you know? a girl who has
actually served the mysteries of Erlik for four
amazing years I"
She paled a trifle, came slowly across the room
to where Recklow was seated, laid a timid hand on
"Do you believe there are sorcerers in Asia?"
she asked with that child-like directness which her
wonderful blue eyes corroborated.
Recklow remained silent.
"Because," she went on, "if, in your heart, you do
THE ASSASSINS 79
not believe this to be an accursed fact, then what I
have to say will mean nothing to any of you."
Recklow touched his short, silvery moustache,
hesitating. Then :
"The worship of Erlik is devil worship," he said.
"Also I am entirely prepared to believe that there
are, among the Yezidees, adepts who employ scien-
tific weapons against civilisation who have proba-
bly obtained a rather terrifying knowledge of psychic
laws which they use scientifically, and which to or-
dinary, God-fearing folk appear to be the black
magic of sorcerers."
Cleves said: "The employment by the huns of
poison gases and long-range cannon is a parallel case.
Before the war we could not believe in the possi-
bility of a cannon that threw shells a distance of
The girl still addressed herself to Recklow:
"Then you do not believe there are real sorcerers in
Asia, Mr. Recklow?"
"Not sorcerers with supernatural powers for evil.
Only degenerate human beings who, somehow, have
managed to tap invisible psychic currents, and have
learned how to use terrific forces about which, so
far, we know practically nothing."
She spoke again in the same uneasy voice: "Then
you do not believe that either God or Satan is in-
"No," he replied smilingly, "and you must not so
"Nor the the destruction of human souls," she
80 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
persisted; "you do not believe it is being accom-
"Not in the slightest, dear young lady," he said
"Do you not believe that to have been instructed
in such unlawful knowledge is damning? Do you
not believe that ability to employ unknown forces
is forbidden of God, and that to disobey His law
means death to the soul?"
"That it is the price one pays to Satan for occult
power over people's minds?" she insisted.
"Hypnotic suggestion is not one of the cardinal
sins," explained Recklow, still smiling "unless wick-
edly employed. The Yezidee priesthood is a band
of so-called sorcerers only because of their wicked
employment of whatever hypnotic and psychic knowl-
edge they may have obtained.
"There was nothing intrinsically wicked in the
huns' discovery of phosgene. But the use they
made of it made devils out of them. My ability
to manufacture phosgene gas is no crime. But if
I manufacture it and use it to poison innocent hu-
man beings, then, in that sense, I am, perhaps, a sort
of modern sorcerer."
Tressa Nome turned paler:
"I had better tell you that I have used forbidden
knowledge which the Yezidees taught me in the
temple of Erlik."
"Used it how?" demanded Cleves.
THE ASSASSINS 81
"To to earn a living. . . . And once or twice
to defend myself."
There was the slightest scepticism in Recklow's
bland smile. "You did quite right, Miss Nome."
She had become very white now. She stood be-
side Recklow, her back toward the suspended map,
and looked in a scared sort of way from one to the
other of the men seated before her, turning finally to
Cleves, and coming toward him.
"I I once killed a man," she said with a catch in
Cleves reddened with astonishment. "Why did
you do that?" he asked.
"He was already on his way to kill me in bed."
"You were perfectly right," remarked Recklow
"I don't know ... I was in bed. . . . And then,
on the edge of sleep, I felt his mind groping to get
hold of mine feeling about in the darkness to get
hold of my brain and seize it and paralyse it."
All colour had left her face. Cleves gripped the
arm of his chair and watched her intently.
"I I had only a moment's mental freedom," she
went on in a ghost of a voice. "I was just able to
rouse myself, fight off those murderous brain-fingers
let loose a clear mental ray. . . . And then, O
God! I saw him in his room with his Kalmuck
knife saw him already on his way to murder me
Gutchlug Khan, the Yezidee looking about in his
bedroom for a shroud. . . . And when when he
reached for the bed to draw forth a fine, white sheet
82 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
for the shroud without which no Yezidee dares jour-
ney deathward then then I became frightened.
. . . And I killed him I slew him there in his
hotel bedroom on the floor above mine!"
Selden moistened his lips : "That Oriental, Gutch-
lug, died from heart-failure in a San Francisco ho-
tel," he said. "I was there at the time."
"He died by the fangs of a little yellow snake,"
whispered the girl.
"There was no snake in his room," retorted
"And no wound on his body," added Selden. "I
attended the autopsy."
She said, faintly: "There was no snake, and no
wound, as you say. . . . Yet Gutchlug died of both
there in his bedroom. . . . And before he died he
heard his soul bidding him farewell; and he saw the
death-adder coiled in the sheet he clutched saw the
thing strike him again and again saw and felt the
tiny wounds on his left hand; felt the fangs pricking
deep, deep into the veins ; died of it there within the
minute died of the swiftest poison known. And
She turned her dead-white face to Cleves "And
yet there was no snake there! . . . And never had
been. . . . And so I I ask you, gentlemen, if souls
do not die when minds learn to fight death with
death and deal it so swiftly, so silently, while one's
body lies, unstirring on a bed in a locked room on
the floor below "
THE ASSASSINS 83
She swayed a little, put out one hand rather
Recklow rose and passed a muscular arm around
her; Cleves, beside her, held her left hand, crushing
it, without intention, until she opened her eyes with a
cry of pain.
"Are you all right?" asked Recklow bluntly.
"Yes." She turned and looked at Cleves and he
caressed her bruised hand as though dazed.
"Tell me," she said to Cleves "you who know
know more about my mind than anybody living "
a painful colour surged into her face but she went
on steadily, forcing herself to meet his gaze: "tell
me, Mr. Cleves do you still believe that nothing
can really destroy my soul? And that it shall yet
win through to safety?"
He said: "Your soul is in God's keeping, and al-
ways shall be. ... And if the Yezidees have made
you believe otherwise, they lie."
Recklow added in a slow, perplexed way: "I have
no personal knowledge of psychic power. I am not
psychic, not susceptible. But if you actually possess
such ability, Miss Nome, and if you have employed
such knowledge to defend your life, then you have
done absolutely right."
"No guilt touches you," added Selden with an
involuntary shiver, "if by hypnosis or psychic ability
you really did put an end to that would-be murderer,
Selden said: "If Gutchlug died by the fangs of a
yellow death-adder which existed only in his own
84. THE SLAYER OF SOULS
mind, and if you actually had anything to do with it
you acted purely in self-defence."
"You did your full duty," added Benton "but
good God! it seems incredible to me, that such
power can actually be available in the world!"
Recklow spoke again in his pleasant, undisturbed
voice: "Go back to the map, Miss Nome, and tell
us a little more about this rather terrifying thing
which you believe menaces the civilised world with
Tressa Nome laid a slim finger on the map. Her
voice had become steady. She said:
"The devil-worship, of which one of the modern
developments is Bolshevism, and another the terror-
ism of the hun, began in Asia long before Christ's
advent: At least so it was taught us in the temple
"It has always existed, its aim always has been
the annihilation of good and the elevation of evil;
the subjection of right by might, and the worldwide
triumph of wrong.
"Perhaps it is as old as the first battle between
God and Satan. I have wondered about it, some'
times. There in the dusk of the temple when the
Eight Assassins came the eight Sheiks-el-Djebel,
all in white chanting the Yakase of Sabbah al
ways that dirge when they came and spread their
eight white shrouds on the temple steps "
Her voice caught; she waited to recover her com-
posure. Then went on :
THE ASSASSINS 85
"The ambition of Genghis was to conquer the
world by force of arms. It was merely of physical
subjection that he dreamed. But the Slayer of
"Who?" asked Recklow sharply.
"The Slayer of Souls Erlik's vice-regent on earth
Hassan Sabbah. The Old Man of the Mountain.
It is of him I am speaking," exclaimed Tressa Nome
with quiet resolution. "Genghis sought only physi-
cal conquest of man ; the Yezidee's ambition is more
awful, for he is attempting to surprise and seize the
very minds of men!"
There was a dead silence. Tressa looked palely
upon the four.
"The Yezidees who you tell me are not sorcerers
are using power which you tell me is not magic
accursed by God to waylay, capture, enslave, and
destroy the minds and souls of mankind.
"It may be that what they employ is hypnotic abil-
ity and psychic power and can be, some day, ex-
plained on a scientific basis when we learn more
about the occult laws which govern these phenomena.
"But could anything render the threat less awful?
For there have existed for centuries perhaps al-
ways a sect of Satanists determined upon the de-
struction of everything that is pure and holy and
good on earth; and they are resolved to substitute
for righteousness the dreadful reign of hell.
"In the beginning there were comparatively few
of these human demons. Gradually, through the
86 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
eras, they have increased. In the twelfth century
there were fifty thousand of the Sect of Assassins.
"Beside the castle of the Slayer of Souls on Mount
Alamout " she laid her finger on the map
"eight other towers were erected for the Eight Chief
Assassins, called Sheiks-el-Djebel.
"In the temple we were taught where these eight
towers stood." She picked up a pencil, and on eight
blank spaces of unexplored and unmapped Mon-
golia she made eight crosses. Then she turned to
the men behind her.
"It was taught to us in the temple that from these
eight foci of infection the disease of evil has been
spreading throughout the world; from these eight
towers have gone forth every year the emissaries of
evil perverted missionaries to spread the poison-
ous propaganda, to teach it, to tamper stealthily with
the minds of men, dominate them, pervert them, in-
struct them in the creed of the Assassin of Souls.
"All over the world are people, already contami-
nated, whose minds are already enslaved and poi-
soned, and who are infecting the still healthy brains
of others stealthily possessing themselves of the
minds of mankind teaching them evil, inviting them
to mock the precepts of Christ.
"Of such lost minds are the degraded brains of
the Germans the pastors and philosophers who
teach that might is right.
"Of such crippled minds are the Bolsheviki, poi-
soned long, long ago by close contact with Asia
THE ASSASSINS 87
which, before that, had infected and enslaved the
minds of the ruling classes with ferocious philosophy.
"Of such minds are all anarchists of every shade
and stripe all terrorists, all disciples of violence,
the murderously envious, the slothful slinking
brotherhood which prowls through the world tak-
ing every opportunity to set it afire ; those mentally
dulled by reason of excesses; those weak intellects
become unsound through futile gabble, parlour so-
cialists, amateur revolutionists, theoretical incapa-
bles excited by discussion fit only for healthy minds."
She left the map and came over to where the four
men were seated terribly intent upon her every word.
"In the temple of Erlik, where my girlhood was
passed after the murder of my parents, I learned
what I am repeating to you," she said.
"I learned this, also, that the Eight Towers still
exist still stand to-day, at least theoretically
and that from the Eight Towers pours forth across
the world a stream of poison.
"I was told that, to every country, eight Yezidees
were allotted eight sorcerers or adepts in scien-
tific psychology if you prefer it whose mission is to
teach the gospel of hell and gradually but surely to
win the minds of men to the service of the Slayer
"That is what was taught us in the temple. We
were educated in the development of occult powers
for it seems all human beings possess this psychic
power latent within them only few, even when in-
88 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
structed, acquire any ability to control and use this
force. . . .
"I I learned rapidly, I even thought, some-
times, that the Yezidees were beginning to be a little
afraid of me, even the Hassani priests. . . . And
the Sheiks-el-Djebel, spreading their shrouds on the
temple steps, looked at me with unquiet eyes, where I
stood like a corpse amid the incense clouds "
She passed, her fingers over her eyelids, then
framed her face between both hands for a moment's
thought lost in tragic retrospection.
"Kai !" she whispered dreamily as though to her-
self "what Erlik awoke within my body that was
asleep, God knows, but it was as though a twin com-
rade arose within me and looked out through my
eyes upon a world which never before had been
Utter silence reigned in the room : Cleves's breath-
ing seemed almost painful to him so intently was he
listening and watching this girl; Benton's hands
whitened with his grip on the chair-arms; Selden,
tense, absorbed, kept his keen gaze of a business man
fastened on her face. Recklow slowly caressed the
cold bowl of his pipe with both thumbs.
Tressa Nome's strange and remote eyes subtly
altered, and she lifted her head and looked calmly at
the men before her.
"I think that there is nothing more for me to
add," she said. "The Red Spectre of Anarchy, called
Bolshevism at present, threatens our country. Our
THE ASSASSINS 89
Government is now awake to this menace and the
Secret Service is moving everywhere.
"Great damage already has been done to the
minds of many people in this Republic; poison has
spread; is spreading. The Eight Towers still stand.
The Eight Assassins are in America.
"But these eight Assassins know me to be their
enemy. . . . They will surely attempt to kill me.
... I don't believe I can avoid death very long.
. . . But I want to serve my country and and
"They'll have to get me first," said Cleves, blunt-
ly. "I shall not permit you out of my sight."
Recklow said in a musing voice: "And these
eight gentlemen, who are very likely to hurt us, also,
are the first people we ought to hunt."
"To get them," added Selden, "we ought to choke
the stream at its source."
"To find out who they are is what is going to
worry us," added Benton. Cleves had stood holding
a chair for Tressa Nome. Finally she noticed it and
seated herself as though tired.
"Is Sanang one of these eight?" he asked her.
The girl turned and looked up at him, and he saw
the flush mounting in her face.
"Sometimes," she said steadily, "I have almost
believed he was Erlik's own vice-regent on earth
the Slayer of Souls himself."
Benton and Selden had gone. Recklow left a little
later. Cleves accompanied him out to the landing.
90 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"Are you going to keep Miss Nome here with
you for the present?" inquired the older man.
"Yes. I dare not let her out of my sight, Reck-
low. What else can I do?"
"I don't know. Is she prepared for the conse-
"I can get a housekeeper."
"That only makes it look worse."
Cleves reddened. "Well, do you want to find her
in some hotel or apartment with her throat cut?"
"No," replied Recklow, gently, "I do not."
"Then what else is there to do but keep her here in
my own apartment and never let her out of my
sight until we can find and lock up the eight gen-
tlemen who are undoubtedly bent on murdering
"Isn't there some woman in the Service who
could help out? I could mention several."
"I tell you I can't trust Tressa Nome to any-
body except myself," insisted Cleves. "I got her into
this; I am responsible if she is murdered; I dare not
entrust her safety to anybody else. And, Recklow,
it's a ghastly responsibility for a man to induce a
young girl to face death, even in the service of her
"If she remains here alone with you she'll face
social destruction," remarked Recklow.
THE ASSASSINS 91
Cleves was silent for a moment, then he burst
out: "Well, what am I to do? What is there left
for me to do except to watch over her and see her
through this devilish business? What other way
have I to protect her, Recklow?"
"You could offer her the protection of your name,"
suggested the other, carelessly.
"What? You mean marry her?"
"Well, nobody else would be inclined to, Cleves,
if it ever becomes known she has lived here quite
alone with you."
Cleves stared at the elder man.
"This is nonsense," he said in a harsh voice.
"That young girl doesn't want to marry anybody.
Neither do I. She doesn't wish to have her throat
cut, that's all. And I'm determined she shan't."
"There are stealthier assassins, Cleves, the slay-
ers of reputations. It goes badly with their victim.
It does indeed."
"Well, hang it, what do you think I ought to
"I think you ought to marry her if you're going
to keep her here."
"Suppose she doesn't mind the unconventionality
"All women mind. No woman, at heart, is un-
"She she seems to agree with me that she ought
to stay here. . . . Besides, she has no money, no
relatives, no friends in America "
92 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"All the more tragic. If you really believe it to
be your duty to keep her here where you can look
after her bodily safety, then the other obligation is
still heavier. And there may come a day when Miss
Nome will wish that you had been less conscientious
concerning the safety of her pretty throat. . . . For
the knife of the Yezidee is swifter and less cruel than
the tongue that slays with a smile. . . . And this
young girl has many years to live, after this business
of Bolshevism is dead and forgotten in our Repub-
"You think I might dare try to find a room some-
where else for her and let her take her chances?
"It's your affair."
"I know hang it! I know it's my affair. I've
unintentionally made it so. But can't you tell me
what I ought to do?"
"What would you do?"
"Don't ask me," returned Recklow, sharply. "If
you're not man enough to come to a decision you
may turn her over to me."
Cleves flushed brightly. "Do you think you are
old enough to take my job and avoid scandal?"
Recklow's cold eyes rested on him : "If you like,"
he said, "I'll assume your various kinds of personal
responsibility toward Miss Nome."
THE ASSASSINS 93
Cleve's visage burned. "I'll shoulder my own
burdens," he retorted.
"Sure. I knew you would." And Recklow smiled
and held out his hand. Cleves took it without cor-
diality. Standing so, Recklow, still smiling, said:
"What a rotten deal that child has had is hav-
ing. Her father and mother were fine people. Did
you ever hear of Dr. Nome?"
"She mentioned him once."
"They were up-State people of most excellent an-
tecedents and no money.
"Dr. Nome was our Vice-Consul at Yarkand in
the province of Sin Kiang. All he had was his sal-
ary, and he lost that and his post when the adminis-
tration changed. Then he went into the spice trade.
"Some Jew syndicate here sent him up the Yar-
kand River to see what could be done about jade
and gold concessions. He was on that business when
the tragedy happened. The Kalmuks and Khirghiz
were responsible, under Yezidee instigation. And
there you are : and here is his child, Cleves back,
by some miracle, from that flowering hell called
Yian, believing in her heart that she really lost her
soul there in the temple. And now, here in her own
native land, she is exposed to actual and hourly dan-
ger of assassination. . . . Poor kid ! . . . Did you
ever hear of a rottener deal, Cleves?"
Their hands had remained clasped while Recklow
was speaking. He spoke again, clearly, amiably:
"To lay down one's life for a friend is fine. I'm
94 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
not sure that it's finer to offer one's honour in behalf
of a girl whose honour is at stake."
After a moment Cleves's grip tightened
"All right," he said.
Recklow went downstair
CLEVES went back into the apartment; he no-
ticed that Miss Nome's door was ajar.
To get to his own room he had to pass
that way; and he saw her, seated before the mirror,
partly undressed, her dark, lustrous hair being
combed out and twisted up for the night.
Whether this carelessness was born of innocence
or of indifference mattered little; he suddenly real-
ised that these conditions wouldn't do. And his
first feeling was of anger.
"If you'll put on your robe and slippers," he
said in an unpleasant voice, "I'd like to talk to you
for a few moments."
She turned her head on its charming neck and
looked around and up at him over one naked shoul-
"Shall I come into your room?" she inquired.
"No! . . . when you've got some clothes on,
"I'm quite ready now," she said calmly, and drew
the Chinese slippers over her bare feet and passed
a silken loop over the silver bell buttons on her
right shoulder. Then, undisturbed, she continued
96 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
to twist up her hair, following his movements in the
mirror with unconcerned blue eyes.
He entered and seated himself, the impatient ex-
pression still creasing his forehead and altering his
rather agreeable features,
"Miss Nome," he said, "you're absolutely con-
vinced that these people mean to do you harm. Isn't
"Of course," she said simply.
"Then, until we get them, you're running a seri-
ous risk. In fact, you live in hourly peril. That is
your belief, isn't it?"
She put the last peg into her thick, curly hair,
lowered her arms, turned, dropped one knee over
the other, and let her candid gaze rest on him in
"What I mean to explain," he said coldly, "is
that as long as I induced you to go into this affair
I'm responsible for you. If I let you out of my
sight here in New York and if anything happens to
you, I'll be as guilty as the dirty beast who takes
your life. What is your opinion? It's up to me to
stand by you now, isn't it?"
"I had rather be near you for a while," she said
"Certainly. But, Miss Nome, our living here to-
gether, in my apartment or living together any-
where else is never going to be understood by
other people. You know that, don't you?"
After a silence, still looking at him out of clear,
IN BATTLE 97
"I know. ... But ... I don't want to die."
"I told you," he said sharply, "they'll have to
kill me first. So that's all right. But how about
what I am doing to your reputation?"
"I suppose you do. You're very young. Once
out of this blooming mess, you will have all your
life before you. But if I kill your reputation for you
while saving your body from death, you'll find no
happiness in living. Do you realise that?"
"Well, then? Have you any solution for this
problem that confronts you?"
"Haven't you any idea to suggest?"
"I don't don't want to die," she repeated in an
He bit his lip; and after a moment's scowling
silence under the merciless scrutiny of her eyes:
"Then you had better marry me," he said.
It was some time before she spoke. For a sec-
ond or two he sustained the searching quality of
her gaze, but it became unendurable.
Presently she said: "I don't ask it of you. I can
shoulder my own burdens." And he remembered
what he had just said to Recklow.
"You've shouldered more than your share," he
blurted out. "You are deliberately risking death
to serve your country. I enlisted you. The least I
can do is to say my affections are not engaged; so
'98 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
naturally the idea of of marrying anybody never
entered my head."
"Then you do not care for anybody else?"
Her candour amazed and disconcerted him.
"No." He looked at her, curiously. "Do you care
for anybody in that way?"
A light blush tinted her face. She said gravely:
"If we really are going to marry each other I had
better tell you that I did care for Prince Sanang."
"What!" he cried, astounded.
"It seems incredible, doesn't it? Yet it is quite
true. I fought him; I fought myself; I stood guard
over my mind and senses there in the temple ; I knew
what he was and I detested him and I mocked him
there in the temple. . . . And I loved him."
"Sanang!" he repeated, not only amazed but also
oddly incensed at the naive confession.
"Yes, Sanang. ... If we are to marry, I thought
I ought to tell you. Don't you think so?"
"Certainly," he replied in an absent-minded way,
his mind still grasping at the thing. Then, looking
up: "Do you still care for this fellow?"
She shook her head.
"Are you perfectly sure, Miss Nome?"
"As sure as that I am alive when I awake from a
nightmare. My hatred for Sanang is very bitter,"
she added frankly, "and yet somehow it is not my
wish to see him harmed."
"You still care for him a little?"
1 "Oh, no. But can't you understand that it is
not in me to wish him harm? . . . No girlfeels that
IN BATTLE 99
way once having cared. To become indifferent to
a familiar thing is perhaps natural; but to desire to
harm it is not in my character."
"You have plenty of character," he said, staring
"You don't think so. Do you?"
"Because of what I said to you on the roof-garden
that night. It was shameful, wasn't it?"
"You behaved like many a thoroughbred," he re-
turned bluntly; "you were scared, bewildered, ready
to bolt to any shelter offered."
"It's quite true I didn't know what to do to keep
alive. And that was all that interested me to keep
on living having lost my soul and being afraid to
die and find myself in hell with Erlik."
He said: "Isn't that absurd notion out of your
"I don't know. ... I can't suddenly believe my-
self safe after all those years. It is not easy to root
out what was planted in childhood and what grew to
be part of one during the tender and formative pe-
riod. . . . You can't understand, Mr. Cleves you
can't ever feel or visualise what became my daily
life in a region which was half paradise and half
She bent her head and took her face between her
fingers, and sat so, brooding.
After a little while: "Well," he said, "there's
only one way to manage this affair if you are will-
ing, Miss Nome."
100 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
She merely lifted her eyes.
"I think," he said, "there's only that one way out
of it. But you understand" he turned pink "it
will be quite all right your liberty privacy I
shan't bother you annoy "
She merely looked at him.
"After this Bolshevistic flurry is settled in a year
or two or three then you can very easily get your
freedom; and you'll have all life before you" . . .
he rose: " and a jolly good friend in me a good
comrade, Miss Nome. And that means you can
count on me when you go into business or whatever
you decide to do."
She also had risen, standing slim and calm in her
exquisite Chinese robe, the sleeves of which covered
her finger tips.
"Are you going to marry me?" she asked.
"If you'll let me."
"Yes I will . . . it's so generous and consid-
erate of you. I I don't ask it; I really don't "
"But / do."
" And I never dreamed of such a thing."
He forced a smile. "Nor I. It's rather a crazy
jthing to do. But I know of no saner alternative.
... So we had better get our license to-morrow.
. . . And that settles it."
He turned to go; and, on her threshold, his feet
caught in something on the floor and he stumbled,
trying to free his feet from a roll of soft white cloth
lying there on the carpet. And when he picked it up,
IN BATTLE 101
it unrolled, and a knife fell out of the folds of cloth
and struck his foot.
Still perplexed, not comprehending, he stooped to
recover the knife. Then, straightening up, he found
himself looking into the colourless face of Tressa
"What's all this?" he asked "this sheet and
knife here on the floor outside your door?"
She answered with difficulty: "They have sent
you your shroud, I think."
"Are not those things yours? Were they not al-
ready here in your baggage?" he demanded incredu-
lously. Then, realising that they had not been
there on the door-sill when he entered her room a
few moments since, a rough chill passed over him
the icy caress of fear.
"Where did that thing come from?" he said
hoarsely. "How could it get here when my door is
locked and bolted? Unless there's somebody hidden
Hot anger suddenly flooded him ; he drew his pis-
tol and sprang into the passageway.
"What the devil is all this!" he repeated furi-
ously, flinging open his bedroom door and switching
on the light.
He searched his room in a rage, went on
and searched the dining-room, smoking-room, and
kitchen, and every clothes-press and closet, always
aware of Tressa's presence close behind him. And
when there remained no tiniest nook or cranny in
102 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
the place unsearched, he stood in the centre of the
carpet glaring at the locked and bolted door.
He heard her say under her breath: "This is
going to be a sleepless night. And a dangerous
one." And, turning to stare at her, saw no fear in
her face, only excitement.
He still held clutched in his left hand the sheet and
the knife. Now he thrust these toward her.
"What's this damned foolery, anyway?" he de-
manded harshly. She took the knife with a slight
shudder. "There is something engraved on the
silver hilt," she said.
He bent over her shoulder.
"Eighur," she added calmly, "not Arabic. The
Mongols had no written characters of their own."
She bent closer, studying the inscription. After
a moment, still studying the Eighur characters, she
rested her left hand on his shoulder an impulsive,
unstudied movement that might have meant either
confidence or protection.
"Look," she said, "it is not addressed to you after
all, but to a symbol a series of numbers, 53-6-26."
"That is my designation in the Federal Service,"
he said, sharply.
"Oh!" she nodded slowly. "Then this is what is
written in the Mongol-Yezidee dialect, traced out in
Eighur characters: 'To 53-6-26! By one of the
Eight Assassins the Slayer of Souls sends this shroud
and this knife from Mount Alamout. Such a blade
shall divide your heart. This sheet is for your
IN BATTLE 103
After a grim silence he flung the soft white cloth
on the floor.
"There's no use my pretending I'm not surprised
and worried," he said; "I don't know how that cloth
got here. Do you?"
"It was sent."
She shook her head and gave him a grave, con-
"There are ways. You could not understand.
. . . This is going to be a sleepless night for us."
"You can go to bed, Tressa. I'll sit up and read
and keep an eye on that door."
"I can't let you remain alone here. I'm afraid
to do that."
He gave a laugh, not quite pleasant, as he sud-
denly comprehended that the girl now considered
their roles to be reversed.
"Are you planning to sit up in order to protect
me?" he asked, grimly amused.
"Do you mind?"
"Why, you blessed little thing, I can take care of
myself. How funny of you, when I am trying to
plan how best to look out for you!"
But her face remained pale and concerned, and
she rested her left hand more firmly on his shoul-
"I wish to remain awake with you," she said.
"Because I myself don't fully understand this"
she looked at the knife in her palm, then down at
104 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
the shroud. "It is going to be a strange night for
us," she sighed. "Let us sit together here on the
lounge where I can face that bolted door. And
if you are willing, I am going to turn out the
lights " She suddenly bent forward and
switched them off "because I must keep my mind
"Why do you do that?" he asked, "you can't see
the door, now."
"Let me help you in my own way," she whispered.
"I I am very deeply disturbed, and very, very
angry. I do not understand this new menace. Yezi-
dee that I am, I do not understand what kind of
danger threatens you through your loyalty to me."
She drew him forward, and he opened his mouth
to remonstrate, to laugh; but as he turned, his foot
touched the shroud, and an uncontrollable shiver
passed over him.
They went close together, across the dim room to
the lounge, and seated themselves. Enough light
from Madison Avenue made objects in the room
Sounds from the street below became rarer as the
hours wore away. The iron jar of trams, the rattle
of vehicles, the harsh warning of taxicabs broke the
stillness at longer and longer intervals, until, save
only for that immense and ceaseless vibration of the
monstrous iron city under the foggy stars, scarcely a
sound stirred the silence.
IN BATTLE 105
The half-hour had struck long ago on the bell of
the little clock. Now the clear bell sotmded three
Cleves stirred on the lounge beside Tressa. Again
and again he had thought that she was asleep for
her head had fallen back against the cushions, and
she lay very still. But always, when he leaned nearer
to peer down at her, he saw her eyes open, and fixed
intently upon the bolted door.
His pistol, which still rested on his knee, was
pointed across the room, toward the door. Once
he reminded her in a whisper that she was unarmed
and that it might be as well for her to go and get
her pistol. But she murmured that she was suffi-
ciently equipped; and, in spite of himself, he shiv-
ered as he glanced down at her frail and empty
It was some time between three and half-past,
he judged, when a sudden movement of the girl
brought him upright on his seat, quivering with ex-
"Where ? Outside the door ?"
"Oh, my God," she murmured, "they are after
my mind again! Their fingers are groping to seize
my brain and get possession of it!"
"What!" he stammered, horrified.
"Here in the dark," she whispered "and I feel
106 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
their fingers caressing me searching moving
stealthily to surprise and grasp my thoughts. ... I
know what they are doing ... I am resisting . . .
I am fighting fighting!"
She sat bolt upright with clenched hands at her
breast, her face palely aglow in the dimness as
though illumined by some vivid inward light or,
as he thought from the azure blaze in her wide-
"Is is this what you call what you believe to be
magic?" he asked unsteadily. "Is there some hostile
psychic influence threatening you?"
"Yes. I'm resisting. I'm fighting fighting.
They shall not trap me. They shall not harm you 1
. . . I know how to defend myself and you! . . .
Suddenly she flung her left arm around his neck
and the delicate clenched hand brushed his cheek.
"They shall not have you," she breathed. "I am
fighting. I am holding my own. There are eight
of them eight Assassins! My mind is in battle
with theirs fiercely in battle. ... I hold my own !
I am armed and waiting!"
With a convulsive movement she drew his head
closer to her shoulder. "Eight of them !" she whis-
pered, "trying to entrap and seize my brain. But
my thoughts are free I My mind is defending you
you, here in my arms!"
After a breathless silence: "Look out!" she
whispered with terrible energy; "they are after your
IN BATTLE 107
mind at last. Fix your thoughts on me ! Keep your
mind clear of their net! Don't let their ghostly fin-
gers touch it. Look at me I" She drew him closer.
"Look at me! Believe in me! I can resist. I can
defend you. Does your head feel confused?"
"Don't sleep! Don't close your eyes! Keep them
open and look at me!"
"I can scarcely see you "
"You must see me!"
"My eyes are heavy," he said drowsily. "I can't
see you, Tressa "
"Wake! Look at me! Keep your mind clear.
Oh, I beg you I beg you ! They're after our minds
and souls, I tell you ! Oh, believe in me," she be-
seeched him in an agonised whisper "Can't you
believe in me for a moment, as if you loved me!"
His heavy lids lifted and he tried to look at her.
"Can you see me? Can you?"
He muttered something in a confused voice.
At the sound of his own name, he opened his eyes
again and tried to straighten up, but his pistol fell
to the carpet.
"Victor!" she gasped, "clear your mind in the
name of God!"
"I can not "
"I tell you hell is opening beyond that door! out-
side your bolted door, there I Can't you believe me !
Can't you hear me ! Oh, what will hold you if the
108 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
love of God can not!" she burst out. "I'd crucify
myself for you if you'd look at me if you'd only
fight hard enough to believe in me as though you
loved me I"
His eyes unclosed but he sank back against her
"Victor I" she cried in a terrible voice.
There was no answer.
"If the love of God could only hold you for a
moment more!" she stammered with her mouth
against his ear, "just for a moment, Victor! Can't
you hear me?"
"Yes very far away."
"Fight for me ! Try to care for me ! Don't let
Sanang have me !"
He shuddered in her arms, reached out and rest-
ing heavily on her shoulder, staggered to his feet and
stood swaying like a drunken man.
"No, by God," he said thickly, "Sanang shall not
The girl was on her feet now, holding him upright
with an arm around his shoulders.
"They can't can't harm us together," she stam-
mered. "Hark! Listen! Can you hear? Oh, can
"Give me my pistol," he tried to say, but his tongue
seemed twisted. "No by God Sanang shall not
She stooped lithely and recovered the weapon.
"Hush," she said close to his burning face. "Lis-
IN BATTLE 109
ten. Our minds are safe ! I can hear somebody's
soul bidding its body farewell!"
White-lipped she burst out laughing, kicked the
shroud out of the way, thrust the pistol into his right
hand, went forward, forcing him along beside her,
and drew the bolts from the door.
Suddenly he spoke distinctly:
"Is there anything outside that door on the land-
"Yes ... I don't know what. Are you ready?"
She laid her hand on lock and knob.
He nodded. At the same instant she jerked open
the door; and a hunchback who had been picking
at the lock fell headlong into the room, his pistol
exploding on the carpet in a streak of fire.
It was a horrible struggle to secure the powerful
misshapen creature, for he clawed and squealed and
bounced about on the floor, striking blindly with ape-
like arms. But at last Cleves held him down, throt-
tled and twitching, and Tressa ripped strips from the
shroud to truss up the writhing thing.
Then Cleves switched on the light.
"Why why you rat!" he exclaimed in hysteri-
cal relief at seeing a living man whom he recognised
there at his feet. "What are you doing here?"
The hunchback's red eyes blazed up at him from
"Who who is he?" faltered the girl.
"He's a German tailor named Albert Feke one
of the Chicago Bolsheviki the most dangerous sort
we harbour one of their vile leaders who preaches
110 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
that might is right and tells his disciples to go ahead
and take what they want."
He looked down at the malignant cripple.
"You're wanted for the I. W. W. bomb murder,
Albert. Did you know it?"
The hunchback licked his bloody lips. Then he
kicked himself to a sitting position, squatted there
like a toad and looked steadily at Tressa Nome out
of small red-rimmed eyes. Blood dripped on his
beard; his huge hairy fists, tied and crossed behind
his back, made odd, spasmodic movements.
Cleves went to the telephone. Presently Tressa
heard his voice, calm and distinct as usual:
"We've caught Albert Feke. He's here at my
rooms. I'd like to have you come over, Recklow.
. . . Oh, yes, he kicked and scuffled and scratched
like a cat. . . . What? ... No, I hadn't heard
that he'd been in China. . . . Who? . . . Albert
Feke? You say he was one of the Germans who
escaped from Shantung four years ago? . . . You
think he's a Yezidee ! You mean one of the Eight
The hunchback, staring at Tressa out of red-
rimmed eyes, suddenly snarled and lurched his mis-
shapen body at her.
"Teufelstuck!" he screamed, "ain't I tell effery-
body in Yian already it iss safer if we cut your
throat ! Devil-slut of Erlik snow-leopardess ! cat
of the Yezidees who has made of Sanang a fool!
it iss I who haf said always, always, that you know
IN BATTLE 111
too damn much! . . . Kai! ... I hear my soul
bidding me farewell. Gif me my shroud!"
Cleves came back from the telephone. With the
toe of his left foot he lifted the shroud and kicked it
across the hunchback's knees.
"So you were one of the huns who instigated the
massacre in Yian," he said, curiously. At that Tressa
turned very white and a cry escaped her.
But the hunchback's features were all twisted into
ferocious laughter, and he beat on the carpet with
the heels of his great splay feet.
"Ja! Ja!" he shrieked, "in Yian it vas a goot
hunting! English and Yankee men und vimmens ve
haff dropped into dose deep wells down. Py Gott
in Himmel, how dey schream up out of dose deep
wells in Yian!" He began to cackle and shriek in
his frenzy. "Ach Gott ja I It iss not you either
you there, Keuke Mongol, who shall escape from the
Sheiks-el-Djebel! It iss dot Old Man of the Moun-
tain who shall tell your soul it iss time to say fare-
well! Ja! Ja! Ach Gott! it iss my only regret
that I shall not see the world when it is all afire!
Ja ! Ja ! all on fire like hell ! But you shall see it,
slut-leopard of the snows ! You shall see it und you
shall burn ! Kai ! Kai ! My soul it iss bidding my
body farewell. Kai ! May Erlik curse you, Keuke
Mongol Heavenly Azure Sorceress of the tem-
ple ! "
He spat at her and rolled over in his shroud.
The girl looking down on him closed her eyes for
a moment, and Cleves saw her bloodless lips move,
112 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
and bent nearer, listening. And he heard her whis-
pering to herself:
"Preserve us all, O God, from the wrath of Satan
who was stoned."
OVER the United States stretched an unseen
network of secret intrigue woven tirelessly
night and day by the busy enemies of civilisa-
tion Reds, parlour-socialists, enemy-aliens, terror-
ists, Bolsheviki, pseudo-intellectuals, I. W. W.'s, so-
cial faddists, and amateur meddlers of every nuance
all the various varieties of the vicious, witless, and
mentally unhinged brought together through the
"cohesive power of plunder" and the degeneration
of cranial tissue.
All over the United States the various depart-
mental divisions of the Secret Service were busily
following up these threads of intrigue leading every-
where through the obscurity of this vast and secret
To meet the constantly increasing danger of physi-
cal violence and to uncover secret plots threatening
sabotage and revolution, there were capable agents
in * .very branch of the Secret Service, both Federal
ar 1 State.
But in the first months of 1919 something more
terrifying than physical violence suddenly threat-
ened civilised America, a wild, grotesque, incred-
ible threat of a war on human minds!
114 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
And, little by little, the United States Govern-
ment became convinced that this ghastly menace was
no dream of a disordered imagination, but that it
was real: that among the enemies of civilisation
there actually existed a few powerful but perverted
minds capable of wielding psychic forces as terrific
weapons: that by the sinister use of psychic knowl-
edge controlling these mighty forces the very minds
of mankind could be stealthily approached, seized,
controlled and turned upon civilisation to aid in the
In terrible alarm the Government turned to Eng-
land for advice. But Sir William Crookes was
However, in England, Sir Conan Doyle immedi-
ately took up the matter, and in America Professor
Hyslop was called into consultation.
And then, when the Government was beginning
to realise what this awful menace meant, and that
there were actually in the United States possibly half
a dozen people who already had begun to carry on
a diabolical warfare by means of psychic power, for
the purpose of enslaving and controlling the very
minds of men, then, in the terrible moment of dis-
covery, a young girl landed in America after four-
teen years' absence in Asia.
And this was the amazing girl that Victor Cleves
had just married, at Recklow's suggestion, and in
the line of professional duty, and moral duty, per-
It had been a brief, matter-of-fact ceremony. John
THE BRIDAL 115
Recklow, of the Secret Service, was there; also Ben-
ton and Selden of the same service.
The bride's lips were unresponsive; cold as the
touch of the groom's unsteady hand.
She looked down at her new ring in a blank sort
of way, gave her hand listlessly to Recklow and to
the others in turn, whispered a timidly comprehen-
sive "Thank you," and walked away beside Cleves as
There was a taxicab waiting. Tressa entered.
Recklow came out and spoke to Cleves in a low
"Don't worry," replied Cleves dryly. "That's
why I married her."
"Where are you going now?" inquired Recklow.
"Back to my apartment."
"Why don't you take her away for a month?"
Cleves flushed with annoyance: "This is no oc-
casion for a wedding trip. You understand that,
"I understand. But we ought to give her a breath-
ing space. She's had nothing but trouble. She's
Cleves hesitated: "I can guard her better in the
apartment. Isn't it safer to go back there, where
your people are always watching the street and house
day and night?"
"In a way it might be safer, perhaps. But that
girl is nearly exhausted. And her value to us is un-
limited. She may be the vital factor in this fight
116 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
with anarchy. Her weapon is. her mind. And it's
got to have a chance to rest."
Cleves, with one hand on the cab door, looked
"Do you, also, conclude that the psychic factor is
actually part of this damned problem of Bolshe-
Recklow's ccrol eyes measured him: "Do you?"
"My God, Recklow, I don't know after what my
own eyes have seen."
"I don't know either," said the other calmly, "but
I am taking no chances. I don't attempt to explain
certain things that have occurred. But if it be true
that a misuse of psychic ability by foreigners Asi-
atics among the anarchists is responsible for some
of the devilish things being done in the United States,
then your wife's unparalleled knowledge of the oc-
cult East is absolutely vital to us. And so I say, bet-
ter take her away somewhere and give her mind a
chance to recover from the incessant strain of these
The two men stood silent for a moment, then
Recklow went to the window of the taxicab.
"I have been suggesting a trip into the country,
Mrs. Cleves," he said pleasantly, " into the real
country, somewhere, a month's quiet in the woods,
perhaps. Wouldn't it appeal to you?"
Cleves turned to catch her low-voiced answer.
"I should like it very much," she said in that odd,
hushed way of speaking, which seemed to have al-
THE BRIDAL 117
tered her own voice and manner since the ceremony
a little while before.
Driving back to his apartment beside her, he
strove to realise that this girl was his wife.
One of her gloves lay across her lap, and on it
rested a slender hand. And on one finger was his
But Victor Cleves could not bring himself to be-
lieve that this brand-new ring really signified any-
thing to him, that it had altered his own life in
any way. But always his incredulous eyes returned
to that slim finger resting there, unstirring, banded
with a narrow circlet of virgin gold.
In the apartment they did not seem to know ex-
actly what to do or say what attitude to assume
what effort to make.
Tressa went into her own room, removed her hat
and furs, and came slowly back into the living-
room, where Cleves still stood gazing absently out
of the window.
A fine rain was falling.
They seated themselves. There seemed nothing
better to do.
He said, politely: "In regard to going away for
a rest, you wouldn't care for the North Woods, I
fancy, unless you like winter sports. Do you?"
"I like sunlight and green leaves," she said in that
odd, still voice.
"Then, if it would please you to go South for a
few weeks' rest "
"Would it inconvenience you?"
118 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
Her manner touched him.
"My dear Miss Nome," he began, and checked
himself, flushing painfully. The girl blushed, too;
then, when he began to laugh, her lovely, bashful
smile glimmered for the first time.
"I really can't bring myself to realise that you
and I are married," he explained, still embarrassed,
Her smile became an endeavour. "I can't believe
it either, Mr. Cleves," she said. "I feel rather
"Hadn't you better call me Victor under the cir-
cumstances?" he suggested, striving to speak lightly.
"Yes. ... It will not be very easy to say it not
for some time, I think."
"That's the idea," he insisted with forced gaiety.
"The thing to do is to face this rather funny situ-
ation and take it amiably and with good humour.
You'll have your freedom some day, you know."
"Yes I know."
"And we're already on very good terms. We find
each other interesting, don't we?"
"It even seems to me," he ventured, "it certainly
seems to me, at times, as though we are approach-
ing a common basis of of mutual er esteem."
"Yes. I I do esteem you, Mr. Cleves."
THE BRIDAL 119
"In point of fact," he concluded, surprised, "we
are friends in a way. Wouldn't you call it
"I think so, I think I'd call it that," she ad-
"I think so, too. And that is lucky for us. That
makes this crazy situation more comfortable less
well, perhaps less ponderous."
The girl assented with a vague smile, but her eyes
"You see," he went on, "when two people are as
oddly situated as we are, they're likely to be afraid
of being in each other's way. But they ought to
get on without being unhappy as long as they are
quite confident of each other's friendly considera-
tion. Don't you think so, Tressa?"
Her lowered eyes rested steadily on her ring-fin-,
ger. "Yes," she said. "And I am not unhappy,
She lifted her blue gaze to his; and, somehow, he
thought of her barbaric name, Keuke, and its Yezi-
dee significance, "heavenly azure."
"Are we really going away together?" she asked
"Certainly, if you wish."
"If you, also, wish it, Mr. Cleves."
He found himself saying with emphasis that he
always wished to do what she desired. And he
added, more gently:
"You are tired, Tressa tired and lonely and un-
120 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"Tired, but not the others."
"Aren't you lonely?"
"Not with you."
The answer came so naturally, so calmly, that
the slight sensation of pleasure it gave him arrived
only as an agreeable afterglow.
"We'll go South," he said. . . . "I'm so glad that
you don't feel lonely with me."
"Will it be warmer where we are going, Mr.
"Yes you poor child! You need warmth and
sunshine, don't you? Was it warm in Yian, where
you lived so many years?"
"It was always June in Yian," she said under her
She seemed to have fallen into a revery; he
watched the sensitive face. Almost imperceptibly
it changed; became altered, younger, strangely lovely.
Presently she looked up and it seemed to him
that it was not Tressa Nome at all he saw, but little
Keuke Heavenly Azure of the Yezidee temple,
as she dropped one slim knee over the other and
crossed her hands above it.
"It was very beautiful in Yian," she said, " Yian
of the thousand bridges and scented gardens so full
of lilies. Even after they took me to the temple,
and I thought the world was ending, God's skies still
remained soft overhead, and His weather fair and
golden. . . . And when, in the month of the Snake,
THE BRIDAL 121
the Eight Sheiks-el-Djebel came to the temple to
spread their shrouds on the rose-marble steps, then,
after they had departed, chanting the Prayers for
the Dead, each to his Tower of Silence, we temple
girls were free for a week. . . . And once I went
with Tchagane a girl and with Yulun another
girl and we took our keutch, which is our luggage,
and we went to the yai'lak, or summer pavilion on the
Lake of the Ghost. Oh, wonderful, a silvery world
of pale-gilt suns and of moons so frail that the
cloud-fleece at high-noon has more substance!"
Her voice died out; she sat gazing down at her
spread fingers, on one of which gleamed her wed-
After a little, she went on dreamily:
"On that week, each three months, we were free.
. . . If a young man should please us. . . ."
"Free?" he repeated.
"To love," she explained coolly.
"Oh." He nodded, but his face became rather
"There came to me at the yai'lak," she went on
carelessly, "one Khassar NoTane NoTane means
Prince all in a surcoat of gold tissue with green
vines embroidered, and wearing a green cap trimmed
with dormouse, and green boots inlaid with stiff
gold. . . .
"He was so young ... a boy. I laughed. I
said: 'Is this a Yagaoul? An Urdu-envoy of Prince
Erlik?' mocking him as young and thoughtless girls
182 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
mock not in unfriendly manner though I would
not endure the touch of any man at all.
"And when I laughed at him, this Eighur boy flew
into such a rage ! Kai ! I was amazed.
"'Sou-sou! Squirrel!' he cried angrily at me.
'Learn the Yacaz, little chatterer ! Little mocker of
men, it is ten blows with a stick you require, not
"At that I whistled my two dogs, Bars and Alaga,
for I did not think what he said was funny.
"I said to him: 'You had better go home, Khas-
sar Noi'ane, for if no man has ever pleased me where
I am at liberty to please myself, here on the Lake
of the Ghost, then be very certain that no boy can
please Keuke-Mongol here or anywhere!'
"And at that kai ! What did he say that mon-
key?" She looked at her husband, her splendid
eyes ablaze with wrathful laughter, and made a ges-
ture full of angry grace :
" 'Squirrel !' he cries 'little malignant sorceress
of Yian ! May everything high about you become a
sandstorm, and everything long a serpent, and every-
thing broad a toad, and everything '
"But I had had enough, Victor," she added ex-
citedly, "and I made a wild bee bite him on the
lip! What do you think of such a courtship?" she
cried, laughing. But Cleves's face was a study in
And then, suddenly, the laughing mask seemed to
slip from the bewitching features of Keuke Mon-
gol; and there was Tressa Nome Tressa Cleves
THE BRIDAL 123
disconcerted, paling a little as the memory of her
impulsive confidence in this man beside her began to
dawn on her more clearly.
"I I'm sorry " she faltered. . . . "You'll
think me silly think evil of me, perhaps "
She looked into his troubled eyes, then suddenly
she took her face into both hands and covered it,
sitting very still.
"We'll go South together," he said in. an uncer-
tain voice. ... "I hope you will try to think of me
as a friend. . . . I'm just troubled because I am so
anxious to understand you. That is all. . . . I'm
I'm troubled, too, because I am anxious that you
should think well of me. Will you try, always?"
"I want to be your friend, always," he said.
"Thank you, Mr. Cleves."
It was a strange spot he chose for Tressa
strange but lovely in its own unreal and rather spec-
tral fashion where a pearl-tinted mist veiled the
St. Johns, and made exquisite ghosts of the pal-
mettos, and softened the sun to a silver-gilt wafer
pasted on a nacre sky.
It was a still country, where giant water-oaks tow-
ered, fantastic under their misty camouflage of moss,
and swarming with small birds.
Among the trees the wood-ibis stole ; without on
the placid glass of the stream the eared grebe floated.
There was no wind, no stirring of leaves, no sound
save the muffled splash of silver mullet, the breath-
124 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
less whirr of a humming-bird, or the hushed rustle of
lizards in the woods.
For Tressa this was the blessed balm that heals,
the balm of silence. And, for the first week, she
slept most of the time, or lay in her hammock watch-
ing the swarms of small birds creeping and flitting
amid the moss-draped labyrinths of the live-oaks at
her very door.
It had been a little club house before the war, this
bungalow on the St. Johns at Orchid Hammock. Its
members had been few and wealthy; but some were
dead in France and Flanders, and some still re-
mained overseas, and others continued busy in the
And these two young people were quite alone
there, save for a negro cook and a maid, and an
aged negro kennel-master who wore a scarlet waist-
coat and cords too large for his shrunken body,
and who pottered, pottered through the fields all
day, with his whip clasped behind his bent back and
the pointers ranging wide, or plodding in at heel with
red tongues lolling.
Twice Cleves went a little way for quail, using
Benton's dogs ; but even here in this remote spot he
dared not move out of view of the little house where
Tressa lay asleep.
So he picked up only a few brace of birds, and con-
fined his sport to impaling too-familiar scorpions
on the blade of his knife.
And all the while life remained unreal for him;
his marriage seemed utterly unbelievable; he could
THE BRIDAL 125
not realise it, could not reconcile himself to condi-
tions so incomprehensible.
Also, ever latent in his mind, was knowledge that
made him restless the knowledge that the young
girl he had married had been in love with another
And there were other thoughts thoughts which
had scarcely even taken the shape of questions.
One morning he came from his room and found
Tressa on the veranda in her hammock. She had
her moon-lute in her lap.
"You feel better much better!" he said gaily,
saluting her extended hand.
"Yes. Isn't this heavenly? I begin to believe it
is life to me, this pearl-tinted world, and the scent
of orange bloom and the stillness of paradise itself."
She gazed out over the ghostly river. Not a
wing stirred its glassy surface.
"Is this dull for you?" she asked in a low voice.
"Not if you are contented, Tressa."
"You're so nice about it. Don't you think you
might venture a day's real shooting?"
"No, I think I won't," he replied.
"On my account?"
"I'm so sorry."
"It's all right as long as you're getting rested.
What is that instrument?"
"Oh, is that what it's called?"
126 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
She nodded, touched the strings. He watched her
"Shall I?" she inquired a little shyly.
"Go ahead. I'd like to hear it!"
"I haven't touched it in months not since I was
on the steamer." She sat up in her hammock and
began to swing there; and played and sang while
swinging in the flecked shadow of the orange bloom:
<f L,ittle Isle of Cispangou,
Isle of iris, isle of cherry,
Tell your tiny maidens merry
Clouds are looming over you!
All your ocean's but a ferry;
Ships are bringing death to you!
"Little Isle of Cispangou,
Half a thousand ships are sailing;
Captain Death commands each crew;
Lo! the ruddy moon is paling!
Clouds the dying moon are veiling,
Every cloud a shroud for you!
"Cispangou," she explained, "is the very, very an-
cient name, among the Mongols, for Japan."
"It's not exactly a gay song," he said. "What's
THE BRIDAL 127
"Oh, it's a very ancient song about the Mongol
invasion of Japan. I know scores and scores of such
She sang some other songs. Afterward she de-
scended from the hammock and came and sat down
beside him on the veranda steps.
"I wish I could amuse you," she said wistfully.
"Why do you think I'm bored, Tressa? I'm not
But she only sighed, lightly, and gathered her
knees in both arms.
"I don't know how young men in the Western
world are entertained," she remarked presently.
"You don't have to entertain me," he said, smil-
"I should be happy to, if I knew how."
"How are young men entertained in the Orient?"
"Oh, they like songs and stories. But I don't
think you do."
He laughed in spite of himself.
"Do you really wish to entertain me?"
"I do," she said seriously.
"Then please perform some of those tricks of
magic which you can do so amazingly well."
Her dawning smile faded a trifle. "I don't I
haven't " She hesitated.
"You haven't your professional paraphernalia
with you," he suggested.
"Oh as for that "
"Don't you need it?"
128 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"For some things some kinds of things. ... I
could do other things "
He waited. She seemed disconcerted. "Don't do
anything you don't wish to do, Tressa," he said.
"I was only only afraid that if I should do
some little things to amuse you, I might stir stir
up interfere encounter some sinister current
and betray myself betray my whereabouts "
"Well, for heaven's sake don't venture then !" he
said with emphasis. "Don't do anything to stir up
any other wireless any Yezidee "
"I am wondering," she reflected, "just what I dare
venture to do to amuse you."
"Don't bother about me. I wouldn't have you
try any psychic stunt down here, and run the chance
of stirring up some Asiatic devil somewhere !"
She nodded absently, occupied with her own
thoughts, sitting there, chin on hand, her musing
eyes intensely blue.
"I think I can amuse you," she concluded, "with-
out bringing any harm to myself."
"Don't try it, Tressa! "
"I'll be very careful. Now, sit quite still closer
to me, please."
He edged closer; and became conscious of an in-
definable freshness in the air that enveloped him,
like the scent of something young and growing. But
it was no magic odour, merely the virginal scent of
her hair and skin that even clung to her summer
THE BRIDAL 1<1
He heard her singing under her breath to her-
and murmuring caressingly in an unknown tongue.
Then, suddenly in the pale sunshine, scores of lit-
tle birds came hovering around them, alighting all
over them. And he saw them swarming out of the
mossy festoons of the water-oaks scores and scores
of tiny birds Parula warblers, mostly all flitting
fearlessly down to alight upon his shoulders and
knees, all keeping up their sweet, dreamy little twit-
"This is wonderful," he whispered.
The girl laughed, took several birds on her fore-
"This is nothing," she said. "If I only dared
wait a moment ! " And, to the Parula warblers :
"Go home, little friends of God!"
The air was filled with the musical whisper of
wings. She passed her right arm around her hus-
"Look at the river," she said.
"Good God!" he blurted out. And sat dumb.
For, over the St. John's misty surface, there was
the span of a bridge a strange, marble bridge
humped up high in the centre.
And over it were passing thousands of people
he could make them out vaguely see them passing
A 30 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
in two never-ending streams tinted shapes on the
And now, on the farther shore of the river, he
was aware of a city a vast one, with spectral pa-
goda shapes against the sky
Her arm tightened around his neck.
He saw boats on the river like the grotesque
shapes that decorate ancient lacquer.
She rested her face lightly against his cheek.
In his ears was a far confusion of voices the stir
and movement of multitudes noises on ships, boat-
men's cries, the creak of oars.
Then, far and sonorous, quavering across the wa-
ter from the city, the din of a temple gong.
There were bells, too very sweet and silvery
camel bells, bells from the Buddhist temples.
He strained his eyes, and thought, amid the pa-
godas, that there were minarets, also.
Suddenly, clear and ringing came the distant muez-
zin's cry: "There is no other god but God! . . .
It is noon. Mussulmans, pray 1"
The girl's arm slipped from his neck and she shud-
dered and pushed him from her.
There was nothing, now, on the river or beyond it
but the curtain of hanging mist; no sound except the
cry of a gull, sharp and querulous in the vapours
"Have have you been amused?" she asked.
"What did you do to me I" he demanded harshly.
She smiled and drew a light breath like a sigh.
"God knows what we living do to one another,
THE BRIDAL 131
or to ourselves," she said. "I only tried to amuse
you after taking counsel with the birds."
"What was that bridge I saw!"
"The Bridge of Ten Thousand Felicities."
"And the city?"
"You lived there?"
He moistened his dry lips and stole another glance
at this very commonplace Florida river. Sky and
water were blank and still, and the ghostly trees
stood tall, reflected palely in the translucent tide.
"You merely made me visualise what you were
thinking about," he concluded in a voice which still
"Did you hear nothing?"
He was silent, remembering the bells and the
enormous murmur of a living multitude.
"And there were the birds, too." She added,
with an uncertain smile: "I do not mean to worry
you. . . . And you did ask me to amuse you."
"I don't know how you did it," he said harshly.
"And the details those thousands and thousands
of people on the bridge ! . . . And there was one,
quite near this end of the bridge, who looked back.
. . . A young girl who turned and laughed at
"That was Yulun."
"Yulun. I taught her English."
"A temple girl?"
132 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"Yes. From Black China."
"How could you make me see her!" he demanded.
"Why do you ask such things? I do not know
how to tell you how I do it."
"It's a dangerous, uncanny knowledge!" he
blurted out; and suddenly checked himself, for the
girl's face went white.
"I don't mean uncanny," he hastened to add. "Be-
ause it seems to me that what you did by juggling
with invisible currents to which, when attuned, our
five senses respond, is on the same lines as the wire-
less telegraph and telephone."
She said nothing, but her colour slowly returned.
"You mustn't be so sensitive," he added. "I've
no doubt that it's all quite normal quite explicable
on a perfectly scientific basis. Probably it's no more
mysterious than a man in an airplane over midocean
conversing with people ashore on two continents."
For the remainder of the day and evening Tressa
seemed subdued not restless, not nervous, but so
quiet that, sometimes, glancing at her askance, Cleves
involuntarily was reminded of some lithe young crea-
ture of the wilds, intensely alert and still, immersed
in fixed and dangerous meditation.
About five in the afternoon they took their golf
sticks, went down to the river, and embarked in the
The water was glassy and still. There was not
a ripple ahead, save when a sleeping gull awoke and
leisurely steered out of their way.
THE BRIDAL 133
Tressa's arms and throat were bare and she wore
no hat. She sat forward, wielding the bow paddle
and singing to herself in a low voice.
"You feel all right, don't you?" he asked.
"Oh, I am so well, physically, now! It's really
wonderful, Victor like being a child again," she re-
"You're not much more," he muttered.
She heard him : "Not very much more in
years," she said. . . . "Does Scripture tell us how
old Our Lord was when He descended into Hell?"
"I don't know," he replied, startled.
After a little while Tressa tranquilly resumed her
paddling and singing:
" And eight tall towers
Guard the route
Of human life,
Where at all hours
Death looks out,
Holding a knife
Rolled in a shroud.
For every man,
Humble or proud,
Mighty or bowed,
Death has a shroud; for every man,
Even for Tchingniz Khan!
Behold them pass! lancer,
In tissue gold,
134. THE SLAYER OF SOULS
Nations swarm to the great Urdu.
Yagaoul, with your kettledrum,
Warn your Khan that his hour is come!
Shroud and knife at his spurred feet throw,
And bid him stretch his neck for the blow! "
"You know," remarked Cleves, "that some of
those songs you sing are devilish creepy."
Tressa looked around at him over her shoulder,
saw he was smiling, smiled faintly in return.
They were off Orchid Cove now. The hotel and
cottages loomed dimly in the silver mist. Voices
came distinctly across the water. There were peo-
ple on the golf course paralleling the river; laughter
sounded from the clubhouse veranda.
They went ashore.
THE MAN IN WHITE
IT was at the sixth hole that they passed the man
ahead who was playing all alone a courteous
young fellow in white flannels, who smiled and
bowed them "through" in silence.
They thanked him, drove from the tee, and left
the polite and reticent young man still apparently
hunting for a lost ball.
Like other things which depended upon dexterity
and precision, Tressa had taken most naturally to
golf. Her supple muscles helped.
At the ninth hole they looked back but did not see
the young man in white flannels.
Hammock, set with pine and palmetto, and inter-
vals of evil-looking swamp, flanked the course. Rank
wire-grass, bayberry and scrub palmetto bounded the
On every blossoming bush hung butterflies Palo-
medes swallowtails drugged with sparkle-berry
honey, their gold and black velvet wings conspicuous
in the sunny mist.
"Like the ceremonial vestments of a Yezidee exe-
cutioner," murmured the girl. "The Tchortchas
136 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
wear red when they robe to do a man to death. "
"I wish you could forget those things," said
"I am trying. ... I wonder where that young
man in white went."
Cleves searched the links. "I don't see him. Per-
haps he had to go back for another ball."
"I wonder who he was," she mused.
"I don't remember seeing him before," said
Cleves. . . . "Shall we start back?"
They walked slowly across the course toward the
Tressa teed up, drove low and straight. Cleves
sliced, and they walked together into the scrub and
towards the woods, where his ball had bounded into
a bunch of palm trees.
Far in among the trees something white moved
"Probably a white egret," he remarked, knocking
about in the scrub with his midiron.
"It was that young man in white flannels," said
Tressa in a low voice.
"What would he be doing in there?" he asked in-
credulously. "That's merely a jungle, Tressa
swamp and cypress, thorn and creeper, and no man
would go into that mess if he could. There is no
bottom to those swamps."
"But I saw him in there," she said in a troubled
"But when I tell you that only a wild animal or a
THE MAN IN WHITE 137
snake or a bird could move in that jungle ! The bog
is one vast black quicksand. There's death in those
"Yes?" He looked around at her. She was
pale. He came up and took her hand inquiringly.
"I don't feel well," she murmured. "I'm not ill,
you understand "
"What's the matter, Tressa?"
She shook her head drearily: "I don't know.
... I wonder whether I should have tried to amuse
you this morning "
"You don't think you've stirred up any of those
Yezidee beasts, do you?" he asked sharply.
And as she did not answer, he asked again whether
she was afraid that what she had done that morning
might have had any occult consequences. And he
reminded her that she had hesitated to venture any-
thing on that account.
His voice, in spite of him, betrayed great ner-
vousness now, and he saw apprehension in her eyes,
"Why should that man in white have followed us,
keeping out of sight in the woods?" he went on.
"Did you notice about him anything to disturb you,
"Not at the time. But it's odd I can't put him
out of my mind. Since we passed him and left him
apparently hunting a lost ball, I have not been able
to put him out of my mind."
138 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"He seemed civil and well bred. He was per-
fectly good-humoured all courtesy and smiles."
"I think perhaps it was the way he smiled at
us," murmured the girl. "Everybody in the East
smiles when they draw a knife. . . ."
He placed his arm through hers. "Aren't you a
trifle morbid?" he said pleasantly.
She stooped for her golf ball, retaining a hold on
his arm. He picked up his ball, too, put away her
clubs and his, and they started back together in
silence, evidently with no desire to make it eighteen
"It's a confounded shame," he muttered, "just as
you were becoming so rested and so delightfully well,
to have anything any unpleasant flash of memory
cut in to upset you "
"I brought it on myself. I should not have risked
stirring up the sinister minds that were asleep."
"Hang it alll and I asked you to amuse me."
"It was not wise in me," she said under her breath.
"It is easy to disturb the unknown currents which en-
mesh the globe. I ought not to have shown you Yian.
I ought not to have shown you Yulun. It was my
fault for doing that. I was a little lonely, and I
wanted to see Yulun."
i They came down the river back to the canoe,
threw in their golf bags, and embarked on the
Over the calm flood, stained deep with crimson,
the canoe glided in the sanguine evening light. But
THE MAN IN WHITE 139
Tressa sang no more and her head was bent side-
ways as though listening always listening to
something inaudible to Cleves something very,
very far away which she seemed to hear through
the still drip of the paddles.
They were not yet in sight of their landing when
she spoke to him, partly turning:
"I think some of your men have arrived."
"Where?" he asked, astonished.
"At the house."
"Why do you think so?"
"I think so."
They paddled a little faster. In a few minutes
their dock came into view.
"It's funny," he said, "that you should think some
of our men have arrived from the North. I don't
see anybody on the dock."
"It's Mr. Recklow," she said in a low voice. "He
is seated on our veranda."
As it was impossible to see the house, let alone
the veranda, Cleves made no reply. He beached
the canoe; Tressa stepped out; he followed, carry-
ing the golf bags.
A mousy light lingered in the shrubbery; bats were
flying against a salmon-tinted sky as they took the
With an impulse quite involuntary, Cleves en*
circled his young wife's shoulders with his left arm.
"Girl-comrade," he said lightly, "I'd kill any
man who even looked as though he'd harm you."
140 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
He smiled, but she had not missed the ugly under-
tone in his words.
They walked slowly, his arm around her shoul-
ders. Suddenly he felt her start. They halted.
"What was it?" he whispered.
"I thought there was something white in the
"Where, dear?" he asked coolly.
"Over there beyond the lawn."
What she called the "lawn" was only a vast sheet
of pink and white phlox, now all misty with the
whirring wings of sphinx-moths and Noctuidae.
The oak grove beyond was dusky. Cleves could
see nothing among the trees.
After a moment they went forward. His arm
had fallen away from her shoulders.
There were no lights except in the kitchen when
they came in sight of the house. At first nobody
was visible on the screened veranda under the orange
trees. But when he opened the swing door for her
a shadowy figure arose from a chair.
It was John Recklow. He came forward, bent his
strong white head, and kissed Tressa's hand.
"Is all well with you, Mrs. Cleves?"
"Yes. I am glad you came."
Cleves clasped the elder man's firm hand.
"I'm glad too, Recklow. You'll stop with us, of
"Do you really want me?"
"Of course," said Cleves.
THE MAN IN WHITE 141
"All right. I've a coon and a surrey behind your
So Cleves went around in the dusk and sent the
outfit back to the hotel, and he himself carried in
Then Tressa went away to give instructions, and
the two men were left together on the dusky veranda.
"Well?" said Recklow quietly.
Cleves went to him and rested both hands on his
"I'm playing absolutely square. She's a perfectly
fine girl and she'll have her chance some day, God
"Her chance?" repeated Recklow.
"To marry whatever man she will some day care
"I see," said Recklow drily.
There was a silence, then:
"She's simply a splendid specimen of woman-
hood," said Cleves earnestly. "And intensely inter-
esting to me. Why, Recklow, I haven't known a
dull moment though I fear she has known
"Why? Well, being married to a a sort of
temporary figurehead shut up here all day alone
with a man of no particular interest to her "
"Don't you interest her?"
"Well, how could I? She didn't choose me be-
cause she liked me particularly."
142 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"Didn't she?" asked Recklow, still more drily.
"Well, that does make it a trifle dull for you both."
"Not for me," said the younger man naively.
"She is one of the most interesting women I ever
met. And good heavens ! what psychic knowledge
that child possesses! She did a thing to-day
merely to amuse me " He checked himself and
looked at Recklow out of sombre eyes.
"What did she do?" inquired the older man.
"I think I'll let her tell you if she wishes. . . .
And that reminds me. Why did you come down
"I want to show you something, Cleves. May we
step into the house?"
They went into a little lamplit living-room. Reck-
low handed a newspaper clipping to Cleves : the lat-
ter read it, standing:
< "HAD DEADLIEST GAS READY FOR GERMANS ,
" 'Lewisite' Might Have Killed Millions
"WASHINGTON, APRIL 24. Guarded night and
day and far out of human reach on a pedestal at
the Interior Department Exposition here is a tiny
vial. It contains a specimen of the deadliest poison
ever known, 'Lewisite,' the product of an American
"Germany escaped this poison by signing the
armistice before all the resources of the United
States were turned upon her.
"Ten airplanes carrying 'Lewisite' would have
THE MAN IN WHITE 143
wiped out, it is said, every vestige of life animal
and vegetable in Berlin. A single day's output
would snuff out the millions of lives on Manhattan
Island. A drop poured in the palm of the hand
would penetrate to the blood, reach the heart and
kill the victim in agony.
"What was coming to Germany may be imagined
by the fact that when the armistice was signed 'Lew-
isite' was being manufactured at the rate of ten tons
a day. Three thousand tons of this most terrible
instrument ever conceived for killing would have
been ready for business on the American front in
France on November i.
' 'Lewisite' is another of the big secrets of the
war just leaking out. It was developed in the Bu-
reau of Mines by Professor W. Lee Lewis, of
Northwestern University, Evanston, 111., who took a
commission as a captain in the army.
"The poison was manufactured in a specially
built plant near Cleveland, called the 'Mouse Trap/
because every workman who entered the stockade
went under an agreement not to leave the eleven-
acre space until the war was won. The object of
this, of course, was to protect the secret.
"Work on the plant was started eighteen days
after the Bureau of Mines had completed its experi-
"Experts are certain that no one will want to
steal the sample. Everybody at the Exposition,
which shows what Secretary Lane's department is
doing, keeps as far away from it as possible."
When Cleves had finished reading, he raised his
eyes in silence.
"That vial was stolen a week ago," said Recklow
144. THE SLAYER OF SOULS
gravely, "by a young man who killed one guard and
fatally wounded the other."
"Was there any ante-mortem statement?"
"Yes. I've followed the man. I lost all trace of
him at Palm Beach, but I picked it up again at Or-
mond. And now I'm here, Cleves."
"You don't mean you've traced him here!" ex-
claimed Cleves under his breath.
"He's here on the St. Johns River, somewhere.
He came up in a motor-boat, but left it east of
Orchard Cove. Benton knows this country. He's
covering the motor-boat. And I came here to see
how you are getting on."
"And to warn us," added Cleves quietly.
"\\r e }i y es< He's got that stuff. It's deadlier
than the newspaper suspects. And I guess I guess,
Cleves, he's one of those damned Yezidee witch-
doctors or sorcerers, as they call them; one of
that sect of Assassins sent over here to work havoc
on feeble minds and do murder on the side."
"Why do you think so?"
"Because the dirty beast lugs his shroud around
with him a bed-sheet stolen from the New Willard
"We were so close to him in Jacksonville that we
got it, and his luggage. But we didn't get him, the
rat! God knows how he knew we were waiting for
him in his room. He never came back to get his
"But he stole a bed-sheet from his hotel in St.
THE MAN IN WHITE 145
Augustine, and that is how we picked him up again.
Then, at Palm Beach, we lost the beggar, but some-
how or other I felt it in my bones that he was after
you you and your wife. So I sent Benton to Or-
mond and I went to Palatka. Benton picked up his
trail. It led toward you toward the St. Johns.
And the reptile has been here forty-eight hours, try-
ing to nose you out, I suppose "
Tressa came into the room. Both men looked at
Cleves said in a guarded voice :
"To-day, on the golf links at Orchard Cove, there
was a young man in white flannels very polite and
courteous to us but Tressa thought she saw him
slinking through the woods as though following and
"My man, probably," said Recklow. He turned
quietly to Tressa and sketched for her the substance
of what he had just told Cleves.
"The man in white flannels on the golf links," said
Cleves, "was well built and rather handsome, and
not more than twenty-five. I thought he was a
"I thought so too," said Tressa, calmly, "until I
saw him in "the woods. And then and then sud-
denly it came to me that his smile was the smile of
a treacherous Shaman sorcerer.
". . . And the idea haunts me the memory of
those smooth-faced, smiling men in white men who
smile only when they slay when they slay body
146 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
and soul under the iris skies of Yian! O God, mer-
ciful, long suffering," she whispered, staring into the
East, "deliver our souls from Satan who was stoned,
and our bodies from the snare of the Yezideel"
THE WEST WIND
THE night grew sweet with the scent of orange
bloom, and all the perfumed darkness was
vibrant with the feathery whirr of hawk-
Tressa had taken her moon-lute to the hammock,
but her fingers rested motionless on the strings.
Cleves and Recklow, shoulder to shoulder, paced
the moonlit path along the hedges of oleander and
hibiscus which divided garden from jungle.
And they moved cautiously on the white-shell
road, not too near the shadow line. For in the
cypress swamp the bloated grey death was awake
and watching under the moon ; and in the scrub pal-
metto the diamond-dotted death moved lithely.
And somewhere within the dark evil of the jungle
a man in white might be watching.
So Recklow's pistol swung lightly in his right
hand and Cleves' weapon lay in his side-pocket, and
they strolled leisurely around the drive and up and
down the white-shell walks, passing Tressa at regu-
lar intervals, where she sat in her hammock with
the moon-lute across her knees.
Once Cleves paused to place two pink hibiscus
148 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
blossoms in her hair above her ears; and the girl
smiled gravely at him in the light.
Again, pausing beside her hammock on one of
their tours of the garden, Recklow said in a low
voice : "If the beast would only show himself, Mrs.
Cleves, we'd not miss him. Have you caught a
glimpse of anything white in the woods?"
"Only the night mist rising from the branch and
a white ibis stealing through it."
Cleves came nearer: "Do you think the Yezidee is
in the woods watching us, Tressa?"
"Yes, he is there," she said calmly.
"You know it?"
Recklow stared at the woods. "We can't go in
to hunt for him," he said. "That fellow would get
us with his Lewisite gas before we could discover and
"Suppose he waits for a west wind and squirts
his gas in this direction?" whispered Cleves.
"There is no wind," said Tressa tranquilly. "He
has been waiting for it, I think. The Yezidee is
very patient. And he is a Shaman sorcerer."
"My God!" breathed Recklow. "What sort of
hellish things has the Old World been dumping into
America for the last fifty years? An ordinary anar-
chist is bad enough, but this new breed of devil
these Yezidees this sect of Assassins "
"Hush!" whispered Tressa.
All three listened to the great cat-owl howling
from the jungle. But Tressa had heard another
THE WEST WIND 149
sound the vague stir of leaves in the live-oaks. Was
it a passing breeze? Was a night wind rising? She
listened. But heard no brittle clatter from the
"Victor," she said.
"If a wind comes, we must hunt him. That will
"Either we hunt him and get him, or he kills us
here with his gas," said Recklow quietly.
"If the night wind comes," said Tressa, "we must
hunt the darkness for the Yezidee." She spoke
"If he'd only show himself," muttered Recklow,
staring into the darkness.
The girl picked up her lute, caught Cleves' worried
eyes fixed on her, suddenly comprehended that his
anxiety was on her account, and blushed brightly
in the moonlight. And he saw her teeth catch at
her underlip; saw her look up again at him, con-
"If I dared leave you," he said, "I'd go into the
hammock and start that reptile. This won't do
this standing pat while he comes to some deadly de-
cision in the woods there."
"What else is there to do?" growled Recklow.
"Watch," said the girl. "Out-watch the Yezidee.
If there is no night-wind he may tire of waiting.
Then you must shoot fast very, very fast and
straight. But if the night-wind comes, then we must
hunt him in darkness."
150 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
Recklow, pistol in hand, stood straight and sturdy
in the moonlight, gazing fixedly at the forest. Cleves
sat down at his wife's feet.
She touched her moon-lute tranquilly and sang
in her childish voice :
"Ring, ring, Buddha bells,
Gilded gods are listening.
Swing, swing, lily bells,
In my garden glistening.
Now I hear the Shaman drum;
Now the scarlet horsemen come;
Through the chanting of the throng
Thunders now the temple gong.
"Let the gold gods listen!
In my garden; what care I
Where my lily bells hang mute!
Snowy-sweet they glisten
Where I'm singing to my lute.
In my garden; what care I
Who is dead and who shall die?
'Let the gold gods save or slay
Scented lilies bloom in May.
Boom, boom, temple gong!
"What are you singing?" whispered Cleves.
" The Bells of Yian.' "
"Is it old?"
THE WEST WIND 151
"Of the 1 3th century. There were few Buddhist
bells in Yian then. It is Lamaism that has destroyed
the Mongols and that has permitted the creed of the
Assassins to spread the devil worhip of Erlik."
He looked at her, not understanding. And she,
pale, slim prophetess, in the moonlight, gazed at him
out of lost eyes eyes which saw, perhaps, the
bloody age of men when mankind took the devil by
the throat and all Mount Alamout went up in smok-
ing ruin ; and the Eight Towers were dark as death
and as silent before the blast of the silver clarions of
"Something is stirring in the forest," whispered
Tressa, her fingers on her lips.
"Damnation," muttered Recklow, "it's the
They listened. Far in the forest they heard the
clatter of palm-fronds. They waited. The ominous
warning grew faint, then rose again, a long, low
rattle of palm-fronds which became a steady mono-
"We hunt," said Recklow bluntly. "Come on!"
But the girl sprang from the hammock and caught
her husband's arm and drew Recklow back from the
"Use me," she said. "You could never find the
Yezidee. Let me do the hunting; and then shoot
very, very fast."
"We've got to take her," said Recklow. "We
dare not leave her."
152 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"I can't let her lead the way into those black
woods," muttered Cleves.
"The wind is blowing in my face," insisted Reck-
low. "We'd better hurry."
Tressa laid one hand on her husband's arm.
"I can find the Yezidee, I think. You never could
find him before he finds you ! Victor, let me use my
own knowledge! Let me find the way. Please let
me lead ! Please, Victor. Because, if you don't, I'm
afraid we'll all die here in the garden where we
Cleves cast a haggard glance at Recklow, then
looked at his wife.
"All right," he said.
The girl opened the hedge gate. Both men fol-
lowed with pistols lifted.
The moon silvered the forest. There was no
mist, but a night-wind blew mournfully through palm
and cypress, carrying with it the strange, disturbing
pungency of the jungle wild, unfamiliar perfumes,
the acrid aroma of swamp and rotting mould.
"What about snakes?" muttered Recklow, knee
deep in wild phlox.
But there was a deadlier snake to find and destroy,
somewhere in the blotched shadows of the forest.
The first sentinel trees were very near, now; and
Tressa was running across a ghostly tangle, where
once had been an orange grove, and where aged and
dying citrus stumps rose stark amid the riot of en-
"She's circling to get the wind at our backs,"
THE WEST WIND 153
breathed Recklow, running forward beside Cleves.
"That's our only chance to kill the dirty rat catch
him with the wind at our backs I"
Once, traversing a dry hammock where streaks
of moonlight alternated with velvet-black shadow a
rattlesnake sprang his goblin alarm.
They could not locate the reptile. They shrank
together and moved warily, chilled with fear.
Once, too, clear in the moonlight, the Grey Death
reared up from bloated folds and stood swaying
rhythmically in a horrible shadow dance before them.
And Cleves threw one arm around his wife and
crept past, giving death a wide berth there in the
Now, under foot, the dry hammock lay every-
where and the night wind blew on their backs.
Then Tressa turned and halted the two men with
a gesture. And went to her husband where he stood
in the palm forest, and laid her hands on his shoul-
ders, looking him very wistfully in the eyes.
Under her searching gaze he seemed oddly to
comprehend her appeal.
"You are going to use to use your knowledge,"
he said mechanically. "You are going to find the
man in white."
"You are going to find him in a way we don't un-
derstand," he continued, dully.
"Yes. . . . You will not hold me in in horror
154 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
Recklow came up, making no sound on the spongy
palm litter underfoot.
"Can you find this devil?" he whispered.
"I think so."
"Does your super-instinct finer sense knowl-
edge whatever it is give you any inkling as to his
whereabouts, Mrs. Cleves?"
"I think he is here in this hammock. Only "
she turned again, with swift impulse, to her husband,
" only if you if you do not hold me in in horror
because of what I do "
There was a silence ; then :
"What are you about to do?" he asked hoarsely.
"Slay this man."
"We'll do that," said Cleves with a shudder.
"Only show him to us and we'll shoot the dirty
reptile to slivers "
"Suppose we hit the jar of gas," said Recklow.
After a silence, Tressa said:
"I have got to give him back to Satan. There is
no other way. I understood that from the first. He
can not die by your pistols, though you shoot very
fast and straight. No!"
After another silence, Recklow said:
"You had better find him before the wind changes.
We hunt down wind or we die here together."
She looked at her husband.
"Show him to us in your own way," he said, "and
deal with him as he must be dealt with."
A gleam passed across her pale face and she tried
to smile at her husband.
THE WEST WIND 155
Then, turning down the hammock to the east, she
walked noiselessly forward over the fibrous litter,
the men on either side of her, their pistols poised.
They had halted on the edge of an open glade,
ringed with young pines in fullest plumage.
Tressa was standing very straight and still in a
strange, supple, agonised attitude, her left forearm
across her eyes, her right hand clenched, her slender
body slightly twisted to the left.
The men gazed pallidly at her with tense, set
faces, knowing that the girl was in terrible mental
conflict against another mind a powerful, sinister
mind which was seeking to grasp her thoughts and
Minute after minute sped : the girl never moved,
locked in her psychic duel with this other brutal
mind, beating back its terrible thought-waves which
were attacking her, fighting for mental supremacy,
struggling in silence with an unseen adversary whose
mental dominance meant death.
Suddenly her cry rang out sharply in the moon-
light, and then, all at once, a man in white stood
there in the lustre of the moon a young, graceful
man dressed in white flannels and carrying on his
right arm what seemed to be a long white cloak.
Instantly the girl was transformed from a living
statue into a lithe, supple, lightly moving thing that
passed swiftly to the west of the glade, keeping the
young man in white facing the wind, which was blow-
ing and tossing the plumy young pines.
"So it is you, young man, with whom I have
156 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
been wrestling here under the moon of the only
God!" she said in a strange little voice, all vibrant
and metallic with menacing laughter.
"It is I, Keuke Mongol," replied the young man
in white, tranquilly; yet his words came as though
he were tired and out of breath, and the hand he
raised to touch his small black moustache trembled
as if from physical exhaustion.
"Yarghouz!" she exclaimed. "Why did I not
know you there on the golf links, Assassin of the
Seventh Tower? And why do you come here with
your shroud over your arm and hidden under it, in
your right hand, a flask full of death?"
He said, smiling:
"I come because you are to die, Heavenly-Azure
Eyes. I bring you your shroud." And he moved
warily westward around the open circle of young
Instantly the girl flung her right arm straight up-
"I hear thee, Heavenly Azure."
"Another step to the west and I shatter thy flask
"With what?" he demanded; but stood discreetly
"With what I grasp in an empty palm. Thou
"I have heard," he said with smiling uncertainty,
"but to hear of force that can be hurled out of an
THE WEST WIND 157
empty palm is one thing, and to see it and feel it is
another. I think you lie, Heavenly Azure."
"So thought Gutchlug. And died of a yellow
The young man seemed to reflect. Then he looked
up at her in his frank, smiling way.
"Wilt thou listen, Heavenly Eyes?"
"I hear thee, Yarghouz."
"Listen then, Keuke Mongol. Take life from us
as we offer it. Life is sweet. Erlik, like a spider,
waits in darkness for lost souls that flutter to his
"You think my soul was lost there in the temple,
"Unutterably lost, little temple girl of Yian.
Therefore, live. Take life as a gift!"
"It is written," she said gravely, "that we belong
to God and we return to him. Now then, Yezidee,
do your duty as I do mine ! Kai !"
At the sound of the formula always uttered by the
sect of Assassins when about to do murder, the
young man started and shrank back. The west wind
blew fresh in his startled eyes.
"Sorceress," he said less firmly, "you leave your
Yiort to come all alone into this forest and seek me.
Why then have you come, if not to submit ! if not
to take the gift of life if not to turn away from
your seducers who are hunting me, and who have
158 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"Yarghouz, I come to slay you," she said quietly.
Suddenly the man snarled at her, flung the shroud
at her feet, and crept deliberately to the left.
"Be careful !" she cried sharply; "look what you're
about ! Stand still, son of a dog ! May your mother
bewail your death!"
Yarghouz edged toward tlie west, clasping in his
right hand the flask of gas.
"Sorceress," he laughed, "a witch of Thibet
prophesied with a drum that the three purities, the
nine perfections, and the nine times nine felicities
shall be lodged in him who slays the treacherous
temple girl, Keuke Mongol! There is more magic
in this bottle which I grasp than in thy mind and
body. Heavenly Eyes ! I pray God to be merciful
to this soul I send to Erlik!"
All the time he was advancing, edging cautiously
around the circle of little plumy pines ; and already
the wind struck his left cheek.
"Yarghouz Khan!" cried the girl in her clear
voice. "Take up your shroud and repeat the fatha !"
"Backward!" laughed the young man, " as do
you, Keuke Mongol!"
"Heretic!" she retorted. "Do you also refuse to
name the ten Imaums in your prayers? Dog! Toad!
Spittle of Erlik! May all your cattle die and all
your horses take the glanders and all your dogs the
"Silence, sorceress!" he shouted, pale with fear
and fury. "Witch ! Mud worm ! May Erlik seize
you! May your skin be covered with putrefying
THE WEST WIND 159
sores ! May all the demons torment you ! May God
remember you in hell!"
"Yarghouz! Stand still 1"
"Is your word then the Rampart of Gog and
Magog, you young witch of Yian, that a Khan of the
Seventh Tower need fear you!" he sneered, stealing
stealthily westward through the feathery pines.
"I give thee thy last chance, Yarghouz Khan," she
said in an excited voice that trembled. "Recite thy
prayer naming the ten, because with their holy names
upon thy lips thou mayest escape damnation. For I
am here to slay thee, Yarghouz! Take up thy
shroud and pray!"
The young man felt the west wind at the back of
his left ear. Then he began to laugh.
"Heavenly Eyes," he said, "thy end is come to-
gether with the two police who hide in the pines yon-
der behind thee ! Behold the bottle magic of Yarg-
And he lifted the glass flask in the moonlight as
though he were about to smash it at her feet.
Then a terrible thing occurred. The entire flask
glowed red hot in his grasp ; and the man screamed
and strove convulsively to fling the bottle; but it
stuck to his hand, melted into the smoking flesh.
Then he screamed again- or tried to but his
entire lower jaw came off and he stood there with
the awful orifice gaping in the moonlight stood,
reeled a moment and then and then his whole
face slid off, leaving nothing but a bony mask out of
which burst shriek after shriek
160 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
Keuke Mongol had fainted dead away. Cleves
took her into his arms.
Recklow, trembling and deathly white, went over
to the thing that lay among the young pines and
forced himself to bend over it.
The glass flask still stuck to one charred hand, but
it was no longer hot. And Recklow rolled the un-
speakable thing into the white shroud and pushed it
into the swamp.
An evil ooze took it, slowly sucked it under and
engulfed it. A few stinking bubbles broke.
Recklow went back to the little glade among the
A young girl lay sobbing convulsively in her hus-
band's arms, asking God's pardon and his for the
justice she had done upon an enemy of all man-
AT THE RITZ
TTTHEN Victor Cleves telegraphed from St.
Vl/ Augustine to Washington that he and his
wife were on their way North, and that
they desired to see John Recklow as soon as they
arrived, John Recklow remarked that he knew of no
place as private as a public one. And he came on to
New York and established himself at the Ritz, rather
To dine with him that evening were two volun-
teer agents of the United States Secret Service,
ZB-303, otherwise James Benton, a fashionable ar-
chitect; and XYL-3?i, Alexander Selden, sometime
junior partner in the house of Milwin, Selden & Co.
A single lamp was burning in the white-and-rose
rococo room. Under its veiled glow these three men
sat conversing in guarded voices over coffee and
cigars, awaiting the advent of 53-6-26, otherwise
Victor Cleves, recently Professor of Ornithology at
Cambridge; and his young wife, Tressa, known offi-
cially as V-6g.
"Did the trip South do Mrs. Cleves any good?"
"Some," said Recklow. "When Selden and I saw
her she was getting better."
162 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"I suppose that affair of Yarghouz upset her
"Yes." Recklow tossed his cigar into the fireplace
and produced a pipe. "Victor Cleves upsets her
more," he remarked.
"Why?" asked Benton, astonished.
"She's beginning to fall in love with him and
doesn't know what's the matter with her," replied the
elder man drily. "Selden noticed it, too."
Benton looked immensely surprised. "I sup-
posed," he said, "that she and Cleves considered the
marriage to be merely a temporary necessity. I
didn't imagine that they cared for each other."
"I don't suppose they did at first," said Selden.
"But I think she's interested in Victor. And I don't
see how he can help falling in love with her, because
she's a very beautiful thing to gaze on, and a most
engaging one to talk to."
"She's about the prettiest girl I ever saw," ad-
mitted Benton, "and about the cleverest. All the
"All the same what?"
"Well, Mrs. Cleves has her drawbacks, you know
as a real wife, I mean."
Recklow said: "There is a fixed idea in Cleves's
head that Tressa Nome married him as a last resort,
which is true. But he'll never believe she's changed
her ideas in regard to him unless she herself en-
lightens him. And the girl is too shy to do that.
Besides, she believes the same thing of him. There's
a mess for you!"
AT THE RITZ 163
Recklow filled his pipe carefully.
"In addition," he went on, "Mrs. Cleves has
another and very terrible fixed idea in her charming
head, and that is that she really did lose her soul
among those damned Yezidees. She believes that
Cleves, though kind to her, considers her merely
as something uncanny something to endure until
this Yezidee campaign is ended and she is safe from
Benton said: "After all, and in spite of all her
loveliness, I myself should not feel entirely comfort-
able with such a girl for a real wife."
"Why?" demanded Recklow.
"Well good heavens, John! those uncanny
things she does her rather terrifying psychic
knowledge and ability make a man more or less un-
easy." He laughed without mirth.
"For example," he added, "I never was nervous
in any physical crisis; but since I've met Tressa
Nome to be frank I'm not any too comfortable in
my mind when I remember Gutchlug and Sanang
and Albert Feke and that dirty reptile Yarghouz
and when I recollect how that girl dealt with them!
Good God, John, I'm not a coward, I hope, but that
sort of thing worries me!"
Recklow lighted his pipe. He said: "In the Gov-
ernment's campaign against these eight foreigners
who have begun a psychic campaign against the un-
suspicious people of this decent Republic, with the
purpose of surprising, overpowering and enslaving
the minds of mankind by a misuse of psychic power,
164. THE SLAYER OF SOULS
we agents of the Secret Service are slowly gaining
the upper hand.
"In this battle of minds we are gaining a victory.
But we are winning solely and alone through the
psychic ability and the loyalty and courage of a
young girl who, through tragedy of circumstances,
spent the years of her girlhood in the infamous
Yezidee temple at Yian, and who learned from the
devil-worshipers themselves not only this so-called
magic of the Mongol sorcerers, but also how to meet
its psychic menace and defeat it."
He looked at Benton, shrugged:
"If you and if Cleves really feel the slightest re-
pugnance toward the strange psychic ability of this
brave and generous girl, I for one do not share it."
Benton reddened: "It isn't exactly repug-
nance " But Recklow interrupted sharply:
"Do you realise, Benton, what she's already ac-
complished for us in our secret battle against Bol-
shevism? against the very powers of hell itself, led
by these Mongol sorcerers?
"Of the Eight Assassins or Sheiks-el-Djebel
who came to the United States to wield the dreadful
weapon of psychic power against the minds of our
people, and to pervert them and destroy all civilisa-
tion, of the Eight Chief Assassins of the Eight
Towers, this girl already has discovered and identi-
fied four, Sanang, Gutchlug, Albert Feke, and
Yarghouz; and she has destroyed the last three."
He sat calmly enjoying his pipe for a few mo-
ments' silence, then:
AT THE RITZ 165
"Five of this sect of Assassins remain five sly,
murderous, psychic adepts who call themselves sor-
cerers. Except for Prince Sanang, I do not know
who these other four men may be. I haven't a no-
tion. Nor have you. Nor do I believe that with all
the resources of the United States Secret Service we
ever should be able to discover these four Sheiks-
el-Djebel except for the astounding spiritual courage
and psychic experience of the young wife of Victor
After a moment Selden nodded. "That is quite
true," he said simply. "We are utterly helpless
against unknown psychic forces. And I, for one, feel
no repugnance toward what Mrs. Cleves has done
for all mankind and in the name of God."
"She's a brave girl," muttered Benton, "but it's
terrible to possess such knowledge and horrible to
Recklow said : "The horror of it nearly killed the
girl herself. Have you any idea how she must suffer
by being forced to employ such terrific knowledge?
by being driven to use it to combat this menace of
hell? Can you imagine what this charming, sensitive,
tragic young creature must feel when, with powers
natural to her but unfamiliar to us, she destroys
with her own mind and will-power demons in human
shape who are about to destroy her?
"Talk of nerve! Talk of abnegation! Talk of
perfect loyalty and courage! There is more than
these in Tressa Cleves. There is that dauntless
bravery which faces worse than physical death. Be-
166 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
cause the child still believes that her soul is damned
for whatever happened to her in the Yezidee temple ;
and that when these Yezidees succeed in killing her
body, Erlik will surely seize the soul that leaves it."
There was a knocking at the door. Benton got up
and opened it. Victor Cleves came in with his young
Tressa Cleves seemed to have grown since she
had been away. Taller, a trifle paler, yet without
even the subtlest hint of that charming maturity
which the young and happily married woman invari-
ably wears, her virginal allure now verged vaguely
on the delicate edges of austerity.
Cleves, sunburnt and vigorous, looked older,
somehow far less boyish and he seemed more
silent than when, nearly seven months before, he had
been assigned to the case of Tressa Nome.
Recklow, Selden and Benton greeted them
warmly; to each in turn Tressa gave her narrow,
sun-tanned hand. Recklow led her to a seat. A
servant came with iced fruit juice and little cakes
Conversation, aimless and general, fulfilling for-
malities, gradually ceased.
A full June moon stared through the open win-
dows searching for the traditional bride, perhaps
and its light silvered a pale and lovely figure that
might possibly have passed for the pretty ghost of
a bride, but not for any girl who had married be-
cause she was loved.
AT THE RITZ 167
Recklow broke the momentary silence, bluntly:
"Have you anything to report, Cleves?"
The young fellow hesitated:
"My wife has, I believe."
The others turned to her. She seemed, for a
moment, to shrink back in her chair, and, as her eyes
involuntarily sought her husband, there was in them
a vague and troubled appeal.
Cleves said in a sombre voice: "I need scarcely
remind you how deeply distasteful this entire and
accursed business is to my wife. But she is going to
see it through, whatever the cost. And we four men
understand something of what it has cost her is
costing her in violence to her every instinct."
"We honour her the more," said Recklow quietly.
"We couldn't honour her too much," said Cleves.
A slight colour came into Tressa's face ; she bent
her head, but Recklow saw her eyes steal sideways
toward her husband.
Still bowed a little in her chair, she seemed to re-
flect for a while concerning what she had to say;
then, looking up at John Recklow:
"I saw Sanang."
"Good heavens! Where?" he demanded.
"I don't know."
Cleves, flushing with embarrassment, explained:
"She saw him clairvoyantly. She was lying in the
hammock. You remember I had a trained nurse for
her after what happened in Orchid Lodge."
Tressa looked miserably at Recklow, dumbly,
for a moment. Then her lips unclosed.
168 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"I saw Prince Sanang," she repeated. "He was
near the sea. There were rocks cottages on cliffs
and very brilliant flowers in tiny, pocket-like gar-
"Sanang was walking on the cliffs with another
man. There were forests, inland."
"Do you know who the other man was?" asked
"Yes. He was one of the Eight. I recognised
him. When I was a girl he came once to the Temple
of Yian, all alone, and spread his shroud on the pink
marble steps. And we temple girls mocked him and
threw stemless roses on the shroud, telling him they
were human heads with which to grease his toug."
She became excited and sat up straighter in her
chair, and her strange little laughter rippled like a
rill among pebbles.
"I threw a big rose without a stem upon the
shroud," she exclaimed, "and I cried out, 'Niaz!'
which means, 'Courage,' and I mocked him, saying,
'Djamouk Khagan,' when he was only a Khan, of
course ; and I laughed and rubbed one finger against
the other, crying out, 'Toug ia glachakho!' which
means, 'The toug is anointed.' And which was
very impudent of me, because Djamouk was a Sheik-
el-Djebel and Khan of the Fifth Tower, and entitled
to a toug and to eight men and a Toughtchi. And it
is a grave offence to mock at the anointing of a
She paused, breathless, her splendid azure eyes
sparkling with the memory of that girlish mischief.
AT THE RITZ 169
Then their brilliancy faded; she bit her lip and stole
an uncertain glance at her husband.
And after a pause she explained in a very sub-
dued voice that the "lagla michi," or action of
"greasing the toug," or standard, was done when a
severed human head taken in battle was cast at the
foot of the lance shaft stuck upright in the ground.
"You see," she said sadly, "we temple girls, being
already damned, cared little what we said, even to
such a terrible man as Djamouk Khan. And even
had the ghost of old Tchinguiz Khagan himself
comedo the temple and looked at us out of his tawny
eyes, I think we might have done something saucy."
Tressa's pretty face was spiritless, now; she
leaned back in her armchair and they heard an un-
conscious sigh escape her.
"Ai-ya ! Ai-ya I" she murmured to herself, "what
crazy things we did on the rose-marble steps, Yulun
and I, so long so long ago."
Cleves got up and went over to stand beside his
"What happened is this," he said heavily. "Dur-
ing my wife's convalescence after that Yarghouz af-
fair, she found herself, at a certain moment, clair-
voyant. And she thought she saw she did see
Sanang, and an Asiatic she recognised as being one
of the chiefs of the Assassins sect, whose name is
"But, except that it was somewhere near the sea
some summer colony probably on the Atlantic
coast she does not know where this pair of jail-
170 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
birds roost. And this is what we have come here to
Benton, politely appalled, tried not to look in-
credulous. But it was evident that Selden and Reck-
low had no doubts.
"Of course," said Recklow calmly, "the thing to
do is for you and your wife to try to find this place
"Make a tour of all such ocean-side resorts until
Mrs. Cleves recognises the place she saw," added
Selden. And to Recklow he added: "I believe there
are several perfectly genuine cases on record where
clairvoyants have aided the police."
"Several authentic cases," said Recklow quietly.
But Benton' s face was a study.
Tressa looked up at her husband. He dropped
his hand reassuringly on her shoulder and nodded
with a slight smile.
"There there was something else," she said with
considerable hesitation "something not quite in
line of duty perhaps "
"It seems to concern Benton," added Cleves,
"What is it?" inquired Selden, smiling also as
Benton's features froze to a mask.
"Let me tell you, first," interrupted Cleves, "that
my wife's psychic ability and skill can make me
visualise and actually see scenes and people which,
God knows, I never before laid eyes upon, but which
she has both seen and known.
"And one morning, in Florida, I asked her to do
AT THE RITZ 171
something strange something of that sort to amuse
me and we were sitting on the steps of our cottage
you know, the old club-house at Orchid I and the
first I knew I saw, in the mist on the St. Johns, a
Chinese bridge humped up over that very common-
place stream, and thousands of people passing over*
it, and a city beyond the town of Yian, Tressa
tells me, and I heard the Buddhist bells and the big
temple gong and the noises in streets and on the
He was becoming considerably excited at the mem-
ory, and his lean face reddened and he gesticulated
as he spoke :
"It was astounding, Recklow! There was that
bridge, and all those people moving over it; and the
city beyond, and the boats and shipping, and the
vast murmur of multitudes. . . . And then, there
on the bridge crossing toward Yian, I saw a young
girl, who turned and looked back at my wife and
"And I told him it was Yulun," said Tressa,
"A playfellow of my wife's in Yian," explained
Cleves. "But if she were really Chinese she didn't
look like what are my own notions of a Chinese
"Yulun came from Black China," said Mrs.
Cleves. "I taught her English. I loved her dearly.
I was her most intimate friend in Yian."
There ensued a silence, broken presently by Ben-
172 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"Where do I appear in this?" he asked stiffly.
Tressa's smile was odd; she looked at Selden and
"When I was convalescent I was lonely. ... I
made the effort one evening. And I found Yulun.
And again she was on a bridge. But she was dressed
as I am. And the bridge was one of 'those great,
horrible steel monsters that sprawl across the East
River. And I was astonished, and I said, 'Yulun,
darling, are you really here in America and in New
York, or has a demon tangled the threads of thought
to mock my mind in illness?'
"Then Yulun looked very sorrowfully at me and
wrote in Arabic characters, in the air, the name of
our enemy who once came to the Lake of Ghosts for
love of her Yaddin-ed-Din, Tougtchi to Djamouk
the Fox. . . . And who went his way again amid
our scornful laughter. . . . He is a demon. And
he was tangling my thread of thought!"
Tressa btecame exceedingly animated once more.
She rose and came swiftly to where Benton was
"And what do you think!" she said eagerly. "I
said to her, 'Yulun! Yulun! Will you make the
effort and come to me if I make the effort? Will
you come to me, beloved?' And Yulun made 'Yes,'
with her lips."
After a silence: "But where do I come in?" in-
quired Benton, stiffly fearful of such matters.
"You came in."
"I don't understand."
AT THE RITZ 173
"You came in the door while Yulun and I were
"When you came to see me after I was better,
and you and Mr. Selden were going North with
Mr. Recklow. Don't you remember; I was lying in
the hammock in the moonlight, and Victor told you
I was asleep?"
"Yes, of course "
"I was not asleep. I had made the effort and I
was with Yulun. ... I did not know you were
standing beside my hammock in the moonlight until
Yulun told me. . . . And that is what I am to tell
you; Yulun saw you. . . . And Yulun has written
it in Chinese, in Eighur characters and in Arabic,
tracing them with her forefinger in the air that
Yulun, loveliest in Yian, flame-slender and very
white, has seen her heart, like a pink pearl afire,
burning between your august hands."
"My hands !" exclaimed Benton, very red.
There fell an odd silence. Nobody laughed.
Tressa came nearer to Benton, wistful, uncertain,
"Would you care to see Yulun?" she asked.
"Well no," he said, startled. "I I shall not
deny that such things worry me a lot, Mrs. Cleves.
I'm a an Episcopalian."
The tension released, Selden was the first to laugh.
"There's no use blinking the truth," he said;
"we're up against something absolutely new. Of
course, it isn't magic. It can, of course, be ex-
174. THE SLAYER OF SOULS
plained by natural laws about which we happen to
know nothing at present."
Recklow nodded. "What do we know about the
human mind? It has been proven that no thought
can originate within that mass of convoluted physical
matter called the brain. It has been proven that
something outside the brain originates thought and
uses the brain as a vehicle to incubate it. What do
we know about thought?"
Selden, much interested, sat cogitating and looking
at Mrs. Cleves. But Benton, still flushed and evi-
dently nervous, sat staring out of the window at the
full moon, and twisting an unlighted cigarette to
"Why didn't you tell Benton when the thing oc-
curred down there at Orchid Lodge, the night we
called to say good-bye?" asked Selden, curiously.
Tressa gave him a distressed smile : C 1 was afraid
he wouldn't believe me. And I was afraid that you
and Mr. Recklow, even if you believed it, might
not like like me any the better for for being
Recklow came over, bent his handsome grey head,
and kissed her hand.
"I never liked any woman better, nor respected
any woman as deeply," he said. And, lifting his
head, he saw tears sparkling in her eyes.
"My dear," he said in a low voice, and his firm
hand closed over the slim fingers he had kissed.
Benton got up from his chair, went to the window,
turned shortly and came over to Tressa.
AT THE RITZ 175
'Tou're braver than I ever could learn to be," he
said shortly., "I ask your pardon if I seem sceptical.
I'm more worried than incredulous. There's some-
thing born in me part of me that shrinks from
anything that upsets my orthodox belief in the future
life. But if you wish me to see this this girl
Yulun it's quite all right."
She said softly, and with gentle wonder: "I know
of nothing that could upset your belief, Mr. Benton.
There is only one God. And if Mahomet be His
prophet, or if he be Lord Buddha, or if your Lord
Christ be vice-regent to the Most High, I do not
know. All I know is that God is God, and that He
prevailed over Satan who was stoned. And that in
Paradise is eternal life, and in hell demons hide
where dwells Erlik, Prince of Darkness."
Benton, silent and secretly aghast at her theology,
said nothing. Recklow pleasantly but seriously de-
nied that Satan and his demons were actual and con-
Again Cleves's hand fell lightly on his wife's
shoulder, in a careless gesture of reassurance. And,
to Benton, "No soul is ever lost," he said, calmly.
"I don't exactly know how that agrees with your or-
thodoxy, Benton. But it is surely so."
"I don't know myself," said Benton. "I hope it's
so." He looked at Tressa a moment and then blurted
out: "Anyway, if ever there was a soul in God's
keeping and guarded by His angels, it's your wife's 1"
"That also is true," said Cleves quietly.
"By the way," remarked Recklow carelessly,
176 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"I've arranged to have you stop at the Ritz while
you're in town, Mrs. Cleves. You and your IniS-
band are to occupy the apartment adjoining this.
Where is your luggage, Victor?"
"In our apartment."
"That won't do," said Recklow decisively. "Tel-
ephone for it."
Cleves went to the telephone, but Recklow took
the instrument out of his hand and called the number.
The voice of one of his own agents answered.
Cleves was standing alone by the open window
when Recklow hung up the telephone. Tressa, on
the sofa, had been whispering with Benton. Selden,
looking over the evening paper by the rose-shaded
lamp, glanced up as Recklow went over to Cleves.
"Victor," he said, "your man has been murdered.
His throat was cut; his head was severed completely.
Your luggage has been ransacked and so has your
apartment. Three of my men are in possession, and
the local police seem to comprehend the necessity of
keeping the matter out of the newspapers. What
was in your baggage?"
"Nothing," said Cleves, ghastly pale.
"All right. We'll have your effects packed up
again and brought over here. Are you going to tell
Cleves, still deathly pale, cast a swift glance to-
ward her. She sat on the sofa in animated conver-
sation with Benton. She laughed once, and Benton
smiled at what she was saying.
"Is there any need to tell her, Recklow?"
AT THE RITZ 177
"Not for a while, anyway."
"All right. I suppose the Yezidees are respon-
sible for this horrible business."
"Certainly. Your poor servant's head lay at the
foot of a curtain-pole which had been placed upright
between two chairs. On the pole were tied three
tufts of hair from the dead man's head. The pole
had been rubbed with blood."
"That's Mongol custom," muttered Cleves. "They
made a toug and 'greased' it! the murderous
"They did more. They left at the foot of your
bed and at the foot of your wife's bed two white
sheets. And a knife lay in the centre of each sheet.
That, of course, is the symbol of the Sect of Assas-
Cleves nodded. His body, as he leaned there on
the window sill in the moonlight, trembled. But his
face had grown dark with rage.
"If I could could only get my hands on one of
them," he whispered hoarsely.
"Be careful. Don't wear a face like that. Your
wife is looking at us," murmured Recklow.
With an effort Cleves raised his head and smiled
across the room at his wife.
"Our luggage will be sent over shortly," he said.
"If you're tired, we'll say good-night."
So she rose and the three men came to make their
adieux and pay their compliments and devoirs. Then,
with a smile that seemed almost happy, she went
into her own apartment on her husband's arm.
178 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
Cleves and his wife had connecting bedrooms and
a sitting-room between. Here they paused for a mo-
ment before the always formal ceremony of leave-
taking at night. There were roses on the centre
table. Tressa dropped one hand on the table and
bent over the flowers.
"They seem so friendly," she said under her
He thought she meant that she found even in
flowers a refuge from the solitude of a loveless mar-
He said quietly: "I think you will find the world
very friendly, if you wish. n But she shook her head,
looking at the roses.
Finally he said good-night and she extended her
hand, and he took it formally.
Then their hands fell away. Tressa turned and
went toward her bedroom. At the door she stopped,
"What shall I do about Yulun?" she asked.
"What is there to do ? Yulun is in China."
"Yes, her body is."
"Do you mean that the rest of her whatever it
is could come here?"
"Why, of course."
"So that Benton could see her?"
"Could he see her just as she is? Her face and
figure clothes and everything?"
AT THE RITZ 179
"Would she seem real or like a ghost spirit
whatever you choose to call such things?"
Tressa smiled. "She'd be exactly as real as you
or I, Victor. She'd seem like anybody else."
"That's astonishing," he muttered. "Could Ben-
ton hear her speak?"
"Talk to her?"
Tressa laughed: "Of course. If Yulun should
make the effort she could leave her body as easily
as she undresses herself. It is no more difficult to
divest one's self of one's body than it is to put off
one garment and put on another. . . . And, some-
how, I think Yulun will do it to-night."
"It would be like her." Tressa laughed. "Isn't
it odd that she should have become ro enamoured of
Mr. Benton just seeing him there in the moonlight
that night at Orchid Lodge?"
For a moment the smile curved her lips, then the
shadow fell again across her eyes, veiling them in
that strange and lovely way which Cleves knew so
well; and he looked into her impenetrable eyes in
"Victor," she said in a low voice, "were you afraid
to tell me that your man had been murdered?"
After a moment: "You always know everything,"
he said unsteadily. "When did you learn it?"
"Just before Mr. Recklow told you."
"How did you learn it, Tressa?"
"I looked into our apartment."
180 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"While you were telephoning."
"You mean you looked into our rooms from
"What did you see?"
"The laglamichi!" she said with a shudder. "Kail
The Toug of Djamouk is anointed at last!"
"Is that the beast of a Mongol who did this
"Djamouk and Prince Sanang planned it," she
said, trembling a little. "But that butchery was
Yaddin's work, I think. Kai ! The work of Yaddin-
ed-Din, Tougtchi to Djamouk the Fox!"
They stood confronting each other, the length of
the sitting-room between them. And after the silence
had lasted a full minute Cleves reddened and said:
"I am going to sleep on the couch at the foot of
your bed, Tressa."
His young wife reddened too.
He said: "This affair has thoroughly scared me.
I can't let you sleep out of my sight."
"I am quite safe. And you would have an un-
comfortable night," she murmured.
"Do you mind if I sleep on the couch, Tressa?"
"Will you call me when you are ready?"
She went into her bedroom and closed the door.
When he was ready he slipped a pistol into the
pocket of his dressing-gown, belted it over his py-
AT THE RITZ 181
jamas, and walked into the sitting-room. His wife
called him presently, and he went in. Her night-
lamp was burning and she extended her hand to ex-
"Could you sleep if it burns?" he asked bluntly.
"Then let it burn. This business has got on my
nerves," he muttered.
They looked at each other in an expressionless
way. Both really understood how useless was this
symbol of protection this man the girl called hus-
band; how utterly useless his physical strength,
and the pistol sagging in the pocket of his dressing-
gown. Both understood that the only real projection
to be looked for must come from her from the
gifted and guardian mind of this young girl who lay
there looking at him from the pillows.
"Good-night," he said, flushing; "I'll do my best.
But only one of God's envoys, like you, knows how
to do battle with things that come out of hell."
After a moment's silence she said in a colourless
voice : "I wish you'd lie down on the bed."
"Had you rather I did?"
So he went slowly to the bed, placed his pistol
under the pillow, drew his dressing-gown around
him, and lay down.
After he had lain unstirring for half an hour:
"Try to sleep, Tressa," he said, without turning his
182 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"Can't you seem to sleep, Victor?" she asked.
And he heard her turn her head.
"Shall I help you?"
"Do you mean use hypnosis the power of sug-
gestion on me?"
"No. I can help you to sleep very gently. I
can make you very drowsy. . . . You are drowsy
now. . . . You are very close to the edge of sleep.
. . . Sleep, dear. . . . Sleep, easily, naturally, con-
fidently as a tired boy. . . . You are sleeping, . . .
deeply . . . sweetly . . . my dear . . . my dear,
YULUN THE BELOVED
CLEVES opened his eyes. He was lying on his
left side. In the pink glow of the night-lamp
he saw his wife in her night-dress, seated side-
ways on the farther edge of the bed, talking to a
The strange girl wore what appeared to be a
chamber-robe of frail gold tissue that clung to her
body and glittered as she moved. He had never
before seen such a dress; but he had seen the girl;
he recognised her instantly as the girl he had seen
turn to look back at Tressa as she crossed the phan-
tom bridge over that misty Florida river. And
Clever Comprehended that he was looking at Yulun.
But this charming young thing was no ghost, no
astral projection. This girl was warm, living, breath-
ing flesh. The delicate scent of her strange gar-
ments and of her hair, her very breath, was in the
air of the room. Her half-hushed but laughing voice
was deliciously human; her delicate little hands, ca-
ressing Tressa's, were too eagerly real to doubt.
Both talked at the same time, their animated
voices mingling in the breathless delight of the re-
union. Their exclamations, enchanting laughter,
184 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
bubbling chatter, filled his ears. But not one word
of what they were saying to each other could he
Suddenly Tressa looked over her shoulder and
met his astonished eyes.
"Tokhta!" she exclaimed. "Yulun! My lord
is awake I"
Yulun swung around swiftly on the edge of the
bed and looked laughingly at Cleves. But when
her red lips unclosed she spoke to Tressa: and,
"Darling," she said in English, "I think your dear
lord remembers that he saw me on the Bridge of
Dreams. And heard the bells of Yian across the
Tressa said, laughing at her husband: "This is
Yulun, flame-slender, very white, loveliest in Yian.
On the rose-marble steps of the Yezidee Temple she
flung a stemless rose upon Djamouk's shroud, where
he had spread it like a patch of snow in the sun.
"And at the Lake of the Ghosts, where there is
freedom to love, for those who desire love,, came
Yaddin, Tougtchi to Djamouk the Fox, in search of
love and Yulun, flame-slim, and flower-white. . . .
Tell my dear lord, Yulun I"
Yulun laughed at Cleves out of her dark eyes that
slanted charmingly at the corners.
"Kail" she cried softly, clapping her palms. "I
took his roses and tore them with my hands till their
petals rained on him and their golden hearts were
a powdery cloud floating across the water.
"I said: 'Even the damned do not mate with
YULUN THE BELOVED 185
demons, my Tougtchi ! So go to the devil, my Ban-
neret, and may Erlik seize you!' "
Cleves, his ears ringing with the sweet confusion
of their girlish laughter, rose from his pillow, sup-
porting himself on one arm.
"You are Yulun. You are alive and real "
He looked at Tressa : "She is real, isn't she?" And,
to Yulun: "Where do you come from?"
The girl replied seriously: "I come from Yian."
She turned to Tressa with a dazzling smile : "Thou
knowest, my heart's gold, how it was I came. Tell
thy dear lord in thine own way, so that it shall be
simple for his understanding. . . . And now be-
cause my visit is ending I think thy dear lord should
sleep. Bid him sleep, my heart's goldl"
At that calm suggestion Cleves sat upright on the
bed, or attempted to. But sank back gently on his
pillow and met there a dark, delicious rush of drow-
He made an effort or tried to : the smooth, sweet
tide of sleep swept over him to the eyelids, leaving
him still and breathing evenly on his pillow.
The two girls leaned over and looked down at
"Thy dear lord," murmured Yulun. "Does he
love thee, rosebud of Yian?"
"No," said Tressa, under her breath.
"Does he know thou art damned, heart of gold?"
"He says no soul is ever really harmed," whis-
186 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"Kail Has he never heard of the Slayer of
Souls?" exclaimed Yulun incredulously.
"My lord maintains that neither the Assassin of
Khorassan nor the Sheiks-el-Djebel of the Eight
Towers, nor their dark prince Erlik, can have power
over God to slay the human soul."
"Tokhta, Rose of Yianl Our souls were slain
there in the Yezfdee temple."
Tressa looked down at Cleves:
"My dear lord says no," she said under her
Tressa paled: "His mind and mine did battle. I
tore my heart from his grasp. I have laid it, bleed-
ing, at my dear lord's feet. Let God judge between
"There was a day," whispered Yulun, "when
Prince Sanang went to the Lake of the Ghosts."
Tressa, very pallid, looked down at her sleeping
husband. She said:
"Prince Sanang came to the Lake of the Ghosts.
The snow of the cherry-trees covered the young
"The water was clear as sunlight; and the lake
was afire with scarlet carp . . . Yulun beloved
the nightingale sang all night long all night long
. . . Then I saw Sanang shining, all gold, in the
moonlight . . . May God remember him in hell!"
"May God remember him."
"Sanang Noi'ane. May he be accursed in the
YULUN THE BELOVED 187
"May he be tormented in Jehaunum! Sanang,
Slayer of Souls."
Tressa leaned forward on the bed, stretched her-
self out, and laid her face gently across her hus-
band's feet, touching them with her lips.
Then she straightened herself and sat up, sup-
ported by one hand, and looking silently down at the
"No soul shall die," she said. "Niaz!"
"Is it written?" asked Yulun, surprised.
"My lord has said it."
"Allahou Ekber," murmured Yulun; "thy lord
is only a man."
Tressa said: "Neither the Tekbir nor the fatha,
nor the warning of Khidr, nor the Yacaz of the
Khagan, nor even the prayers of the Ten Imaums
are of any value to me unless my dear lord confirms
the truth of them with his own lips."
"AndErlik? Is he nothing, then?"
"Erlik!" repeated Tressa insolently. "Who is
Erlik but the servant of Satan who was stoned?"
Her beautiful, angry lips were suddenly distorted;
her blue eyes blazed. Then she spat, her mouth still
tremulous with hatred. She said in a voice shaking
"Yulun, beloved! Listen attentively. I have slain
two of the Slayers of the Eight Towers. With God's
help I shall slay them all all! Djamouk, Yaddin,
Arrak Sou-Sou all! every one! Tiyang Khan,
Togrul, all shall I slay, even to the last one among
188 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"I leave him to God. It is a fearful thing to fall
into the hands of the living God!"
Yulun calmly paraphrased the cant phrase of the
Assassins: "For it is written that we belong to God
and we return to Him. Heart of gold, I shall exe-
cute my dutyl"
Then Yulun slipped from the edge of the bed to
the floor, and stood there looking oddly at Tressa,
her eyes rain-bright as though choking back tears
"Heart of a rose," she said in a suppressed voice,
"my time is nearly ended. ... So. ... I go to the
chamber of this strange young man who holds my
soul like a pearl afire between his hapds. ... I
think it it written that I shall love him."
Tressa rose also and placed her lips close to
Yulun's ear: "His name, beloved, is Benton. His
room is on this floor. Shall we make the effort to-
"Yes," said Yulun. "Lay your body down upon
the bed beside your lord who sleeps so deeply. . . .
And now stretch out. . . . And fold both hands.
. . . And now put off thy body like a silken garment.
. . . So! And leave it there beside thy lord,
They stood together for a moment, shining like
dewy shapes of tall flowers, whispering and laughing
together in the soft glow of the night lamp.
Cleves slept on, unstirring. There was the white
YULUN THE BELOVED 189
and sleeping figure of his wife lying on the bed be-
But Tressa and Yulun were already melting away
between the wall and the confused rosy radiance of
Benton, in night attire and chamber-robe belted in,
fresh from his bath and still drying his curly hair
on a rough towel, wandered back into his bedroom.
When his short, bright hair was dry, he lighted a
cigarette, took the automatic from his dresser, exam-
ined the clip, and shoved it under his pillow.
Then he picked up the little leather-bound Testa-
ment, seated himself, and opened it. And read
tranquilly while his cigarette burned.
When he was ready he turned out the ceiling light,
leaving only the night lamp lighted. Then he knelt
beside his bed, a custom surviving the nursery
period, and rested his forehead against his folded
Then, as he prayed, something snapped the thread
of prayer as though somebody had spoken aloud in
the still room; and, like one who has been suddenly
interrupted, he opened his eyes and looked around
The silent shock of her presence passed presently.
He got up from his knees, looking at her all the
"You are Yulun," he said very calmly.
The girl flushed brightly and rested one hand on
the foot of the bed.
"Do you remember in the moonlight where you
190 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
walked along the hedge of white hibiscus and olean-
der that night you said good-bye to Tressa in the
"Twice," she said, laughing, "you stopped to peer
at the blossoms in the moonlight."
"I thought I saw a face among them."
"You were not sure whether it was flowers or a
girl's face looking at you from the blossoming hedge
of white hibiscus," said Yulun.
"I know now," he said in an odd, still voice, unlike
"Yes, it was I," she murmured. And of a sudden
the girl dropped to her knees without a sound and
laid her head on the velvet carpet at his feet.
So swiftly, noiselessly was it done that he had
not comprehended had not moved when she sat
upright, resting on her knees, and grasped the collar
of her tunic with both gemmed hands.
"Have pity on me, lord of my lost soul !" she cried
Benton stooped in a dazed way to lift the girl; but
found himself knee deep in a snowy drift of white
hibiscus blossoms touched nothing but silken petals
waded in them as he stepped forward. And saw
her standing before him still grasping the collar of
her golden tunic.
A great white drift of bloom lay almost waist
deep between them ; the fragrance of oleander, too,
was heavy in the room.
"There are years of life before the flaming gates
YULUN THE BELOVED 191
of Jehaunum open. And I am very young," said
Somebody else laughed in the room. Turning his
head, he saw Tressa standing by the empty fireplace.
"What you see and hear need not disturb you,"
she said, looking at Benton out of brilliant eyes.
"There is no god but God; and His prophet has
been called by many names." And to Yulun : "Have
I not told you that nothing can harm our souls?"
Yulun's expression altered and she turned to Ben-
ton: "Say it to me !" she pleaded.
As in a dream he heard his own words : "Nothing
can ever really harm the soul."
Yulun's hands fell from her tunic collar. Very
slowly she lifted her head, looking at him out of
lovely, proud young eyes.
She said, evenly, her still gaze on him: "I am
Yulun of the Temple. My heart is like a blazing
pearl which you hold between your hands. May
the four Blessed Companions witness the truth of
what I say."
Then a delicate veil of colour wrapped her white
skin from throat to temple; she looked at Benton
with sudden and exquisite distress, frightened and
ashamed at his silence.
In the intense stillness Benton moved toward her.
Into his outstretched hands her two hands fell; but,
bending above them, his lips touched only two white
hibiscus flowers that lay fresh and dewy in his
Bewildered, be straightened up; and saw the girl
192 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
standing by the mantel beside Tressa, who had
caught her by the left hand.
"Tokhta! Look out!" she said distinctly.
Suddenly he saw two men in the room, close to
him their broad faces, slanting eyes, and sparse
beards thrust almost against his shoulder.
"Djamouk! Yaddin-ed-Din!" cried Tressa in a
terrible voice. But quick as a flash Yulun tore a
white sheet from the bed, flung it on the floor, and,
whipping a tiny, jewelled knife from her sleeve,
threw it glittering upon the sheet at the feet of the
"One shroud for two souls I" she said breathlessly.
" and a knife like that to sever them from their
The two men sprang backward as the sheet
touched their feet, and now they stood there as
"Djamouk, Kahn of the Fifth Tower!" cried
Tressa in a clear voice, "you have put off your body
like a threadbare cloak, and your form that stands
there Is only your mind ! And it fs only the evil will
of Yaddin in the shape of his body that confronts
us in this room of a man you have doomed!"
Yulun, intent as a young leopardess on her prey,
moved soundlessly toward Yaddin.
"Tougtchi!" she said coldly, "you did murder this
day, my Banneret, and the Toug of Djamouk has
been greased. Now look out for yourself !"
"Don't stirl" came Tressa's warning voice, as
Benton snatched his pistol from the pillow. "Don't
YULUN THE BELOVED 193
fire ! Those men have no real substance ! For God's
sake don't fire ! I tell you they have no bodies !"
Suddenly something some force flung Benton
on the bed. The two men did not seem to touch him
at all, but he lay there struggling, crushed, held by
something that was strangling him.
Through his swimming eyes he saw Yaddin trying
to drive a long nail into his skull with a hammer,
felt the piercing agony of the first crashing blow,
struggled upright, drenched in blood, his ears ring-
ing with the screaming of Yaddin.
Then, there in the little rococo bedroom of the
Ritz-Carlton, began a strange and horrible strug-
gle the more dreadful because the struggle was not
physical and the combatants never touched each
other scarcely moved at all.
Yaddin, still screaming, confronted Yulun. The
girl's eyes were ablaze, her lips parted with the vio-
lence of her breathing. And Yaddin writhed and
screamed under the terrible concentration of her
gaze, his inferior but ferocious mind locked with
her mind in deadly battle.
The girl said slowly, showing a glimmer of white
teeth: "Your will to do evil to my young lord is
breaking, Yaddin-ed-Din. . ... I am breaking it.
The nail and hammer were but symbols. It was
your brain that brooded murder that willed he
should die as though shattered by lightning when that
blood-vessel burst in his brain!"
"Sorceress!" shrieked Yaddin, "what are you do-
194 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
ing to my heart, where my body lies asleep in a berth
on the Montreal Express!"
"Your heart is weak, Yaddin. Soon the valves
shall fail. A negro porter shall discover you dead
in your berth, my Banneret!"
The man's swarthy face became livid with the ter-
rific mental battle.
"Let me go back to my body !" he panted. "What
are you doing to me that I can not go back? I will
go back ! I wish it ! I "
"Let us go back and rejoin our bodies!" cried
Djamouk in an agonised voice. "There are teeth
in my throat, deep in my throat, biting and tearing
out the cords."
"Cancer," said Tressa calmly. "Your body shall
die of it while your soul stumbles on through dark-
"My Tougtchi!" shouted Djamouk, "I hear my
soul bidding my body farewell! I must go before
my mind expires in the terrible gaze of this young
He turned, drifted like something misty to the
"My soul be ransom for yours!" cried Yulun to
Tressa. "Bar that man's path to life !"
Tressa flung out her right hand and, with her fore-
finger, drew a barrier through space, bar above bar.
And Benton, half swooning on his bed, saw a cage
of terrible and living light penning in Djamouk, who
beat upon the incandescent bars and grasped them
YULUN THE BELOVED 195
and clawed his way about, squealing like a tortured
rat in a red-hot cage.
Through the deafening tumult Yulun's voice cut
like a sword:
"Their bodies are dying, Heart of a Rose! . . .
Listen ! I hear their souls bidding their minds fare-
And, after a dreadful silence: "The train speed-
ing north carries two dead men! God is God.
The bars of living fire faded. Two cinder-like and
shapeless shadows floated and eddied like whitened
ashes stirred by a wind on the hearth; then drifted
through the lamp-light, fading, dissolving, lost grad-
ually in thin air.
Tressa, leaning back against the mantel, covered
her face with both hands.
Yulun crept to the bed where Benton lay, breath-
ing evenly in deepest sleep.
With the sheer sleeve of her tunic she wiped the
blood from his face. And, at her touch, the wound
in the temple closed and the short, bright hair dried
and curled over a forehead as clean and fresh as a
Then Yulun laid her lips against his, rested so a
"Seek me, dear lord," she whispered. "Or send
me a sign and I shall come."
And, after a pause, she said, her lips scarcely
stirring: "Love me. My heart is a flaming pearl
burning between your hands."
196 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
Then she lifted her head.
But Tressa had rejoined her body, where it lay
asleep beside her deeply sleeping husband.
So Yulun stood a moment, her eyes remote. Then,
after a while, the little rococo bedroom in the Ritz-
Carlton was empty save for a young man asleep on
the bed, holding in his clenched hand a white hibiscus
HIS EXCELLENCY PRESIDENT TIN-
TINTO, Chief Executive of one of the
newer and cruder republics, visiting New
York incognito with his Secretaries of War and of
the Navy, had sent for John Recklow. And now
the reception was in full operation.
Recklow was explaining. "In the beginning," he
said, "the Bolsheviks' aim was to destroy everything
and everybody except themselves, and then to re-
organise for their own benefit what was left of a
wrecked world. That was their programme "
"Quite a programme," interrupted the Secretary
of War, with something that almost resembled a
giggle. But his prominent eyes continued to stare
at Recklow untouched by the mirth which stretched
his large, silly mouth.
The face of the Secretary of the Navy resembled
the countenance of a benevolent manatee. The vis-
age of the President was a study in tinted chalks.
Recklow said: "To combat that sort of Bol-
shevism was a business that we of the United States
Secret Service understood or supposed we under-
138 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"Then, suddenly, out of unknown Mongolia and
into the civilised world stepped eight men."
"Yezidees," said the President mechanically.
"Your Government has sent me a very full re-
"Yezidees of the Sect of the Assassins," con-
tinued Recklow; " the most ancient sect in the
world surviving from ancient times the Sorcerers
of Asia. And, as it was in ancient times, so it is
now: the Yezidees are devil worshipers; their god
is Satan; his prophet is Erlik, Prince of Darkness;
his regent on earth is the old man of Mount Ala-
mout; and to this ancient and sinister title a Yezi-
dee sorcerer called Prince Sanang, or Sanang No'i-
ane, has succeeded.
"His murderous deputies were the Eight Khans
of the Eight Towers. Four of these assassins are
dead Gutchlug, Yarghouz, Djamouk the Fox, and
Yaddin-ed-Din. One is in prison charged with mur-
der, Albert Feke.
"Four of the sorcerers remain alive: Tiyang
Khan, Togrul, Arrak, Sou-Sou, called The Squirrel,
and the Old Man of the Mountain himself, Sai-
Sanang, Prince of the Yezidees."
Recklow paused; the pop-eyes of the War Secre-
tary were upon him ; the benevolent manatee gazed
mildly at him; the countenance of the President
seemed more like a Rocky Mountain goat than ever
chiselled out of a block of tinted chalk.
Recklow said: "To the menace of Bolshevism,
which endangers this Republic and yours, has been
HIS EXCELLENCY 199
added a more terrible threat the threat of pow-
erful and evil minds made formidable by psychic
"For these Yezidee Sorcerers are determined to
conquer, seize, and subdue the minds of mankind.
They are here for that frightful purpose. Power-
fully, terrifically equipped to surprise and capture
the unarmed minds of our people, enslave their very
thoughts and use them to their own purposes, these
Sorcerers of the Yezidees assumed control of the
Bolsheviki, who were merely envious and ferocious
bandits, but whose crippled minds are now utterly
enslaved by these Assassins from Asia.
"And this is what the United States Secret Serv-
ice has to combat. And its weapons are not war-
rants, not pistols. For in this awful battle between
decency and evil, it is mind against mind in an occult
death grapple. And our only weapon against these
minds made powerful by psychic knowledge and
made terrible by an esoteric ability akin to what is
called black magic, our only weapon is the mind of
a young girl."
"I understand," said the President, "that she be-
came an adept in occult practices while imprisoned
in the Yezidee Temple of Erlik at Yian."
Recklow looked into the President's face, which
had grown very pale.
"Yes, sir," he said. "God alone knows what this
child learned in the Yezidee Temple. All I know
is that with this knowledge she has met the Yezidees
in a battle of minds, has halted them, confounded
200 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
them, fought them with their own occult knowledge,
and has slain four of them."
The intense silence was broken by the frivolous
titter of the Secretary of War:
"Of course I don't believe any of this supernatu-
ral stuff," he said with the split grin which did not
modify his protruding stare. "This girl is merely a
clever detective, that is the gist of the matter. And
I don't believe anything else."
"Perhaps, sir, you will believe this, then," said
John Recklow quietly. "I cut it from the Times
this morning." And he handed the clipping to the
Secretary of War.
NEW PLOT IN EAST
Moslem and Hindu Conspirators
Have Formed Secret
Have World Revolution in View
Think to Rouse Asia, America, and Africa
to Outbreaks by Their
Copyright, I9i9,by The New York Times Company.
Special Cable to The New York Times.
'July i. A significant event has recently taken
place. Under the name of the Oriental League has
recently been established a central organisation unit-
HIS EXCELLENCY 201
ing all the various secret societies of Moslem and
Hindu nationalists. The aim of the new association
is to prepare for joint revolutionary action in Asia,
America, and Africa.
The effects of this vast conspiracy may already be
traced in recent events in Egypt, India, and Afghan-
istan. For the first time, through the creation of
this league, the racial and religious differences which
have divided Eastern conspirators have been over-
come. The Ottoman League, founded by Mahmud
Muktar Pasha, Munir Pasha, and Ahmed Rechid
Bey, has adhered to the new organisation. So have
the extreme Egyptian nationalists and the Hindu rev-
olutionary group, "Pro India," emissaries of which
were recently sentenced for bringing bombs into
Switzerland during the war at the instigation of the
German General Staff.
At a "Constituent Assembly" of the league, which
took place in Yian, there were present, besides Young
Turks, Egyptians and Hindus, delegates represent-
ing Persia, Afghanistan, Algeria, Morocco, and
The league is of Mongolian origin. Its leading
spirit is a certain Prince Sanang, of whom little is
Associated with this mischievous and rather mys-
terious Mongolian personage are three better known
criminals, now fugitives from justice Talaat, En-
ver, and Djemal. It is to Enver Pasha's talent for
intrigue that the union between Moslems and Hin-
dus, the most striking and dangerous feature of the
movement, is chiefly due.
Considerable funds are at the disposal of the
league. These are partly supplied from Germany.
Besides enjoying the support of the Germans, the
202 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
league is also in close touch with Lenine, who very
soon after his advent to power organised an Orien-
tal Department in Moscow.
The alliance between the league and the Russian
Bolsheviki was brought about by the notorious Ger-
man Socialist agent, "Parvus," who is now in Swit-
zerland. Many weeks ago he conferred with the
Soviet rulers in Moscow, whence he went to Afghan-
istan, hoping to reorganise the new Amir's army and
establish lines of communication for propaganda in
Evidence exists that the recent insurrection in
Egypt, the sudden attack of the Afghans, and the
rising in India, remarkable for co-operation between
Moslems and Hindus, were connected with the ac-
tivities of the league.
The Secretary looked up after he finished the
"I don't see anything about Black Magic in this?"
he remarked flippantly.
Recklow's features became very grave.
"I think," he said, "that everybody myself in-
cluded and, with all respect, even yourself, sir,
and your honourable colleague, and perhaps even
his Excellency your President, should be on per-
petual guard over their minds, and the thoughts that
range there, lest, surreptitiously, stealthily, some
taint of Yezidee infection lodge there and take root
and spread perhaps throughout your new Re-
HIS EXCELLENCY $03
The Secretary of War grinned. "They say I'm
something of a socialist already," he chuckled. "Do
you think your magic Yezidees are responsible ?"
The President, troubled and pallid, gazed stead-
ily at Recklow.
"Mine is a single-track mind," he remarked as
though to himself.
Recklow said nothing. It is one kind of mind,
after all. However, single-track roads are now ob-
"A single-track mind," repeated the President.
"And I should not like anything to happen to the
switch. It would mean ditching or a rusty siding
at best. . . . Please do all that is possible to get
those four Yezidees, Mr. Recklow."
Recklow said calmly: "Our only hope is in this
young girl, Tressa Nome, who is now Mrs. Cleves."
"My conscience!" piped the Secretary of the
Navy. "What would happen to us if these Yezi-
dees should murder her?"
"God knows," replied John Recklow, unsmiling.
"Why not put her aboard our new dreadnought?"
suggested the Secretary, "and keep her cruising un-
til you United States Secret Service fellows get the
rest of these infernal Yezidees and clap 'em into
"We can do nothing without her," said Recklow
There was a painful silence. The President joined
his finger tips and stared palely into space.
204 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"May I not say," he suggested, "that I think it a
vital necessity that these Yezidees be caught and de-
stroyed before 'they do any damage to the minds
of myself and my cabinet?"
"God grant it, sir," said Recklow grimly.
"Mine," murmured the President, "is a single-
track mind. I should be very much annoyed if any-
body tampered with the rails very much annoyed
indeed, Mr. Recklow."
"They mustn't murder that girl," said the Secre-
tary of the Navy. "Do you need any Marines, Mr.
Recklow? Why not ask your Government for a
Recklow rose : "Mr. President," he said, "I shall
not deny that my Government is very deeply dis-
turbed by this situation. In the beginning, these
eight Assassins, and Sanang, came here for the pur-
pose of attacking, overpowering, and enslaving the
minds of the people of the United States and of
the South American Republics.
"But now, after four of their infamous colleagues
have been destroyed, the ferocious survivors, thor-
oughly alarmed, have turned their every energy to-
ward accomplishing the death of Mrs. Cleves ! Why,
sir, scarcely a day passes but that some attempt upon
her life is made by these Yezidees.
"Scarcely a day passes that this young girl is not
suddenly summoned to defend her mind as well as
her body against the occult attacks of these Mongol
Sorcerers. Yes, sir, Sorcerers!" repeated Recklow,
HIS EXCELLENCY 205
his calm voice deep with controlled passion, " what-
ever your honourable Secretary of War may think
about it I"
His cold, grey eyes measured the President as he
"Mr. President, I am at my wits' end to protect
her from assassination ! Her husband is always with
her Victor Cleves, sir, of our Secret Service. But
wherever he takes her these devils follow and send
their emissaries to watch her, to follow, to attempt
her mental destruction or her physical death.
"There is no end to their stealthy cunning, to
their devilish devices, to their hellish ingenuity!
"And all we can do is to guard her person from
the approach of strangers, and stand ready, physi-
cally, to aid her.
"She is our only barrier your only defence be-
tween civilisation and horrors worse than Bolshe-
"] believe, Mr. President, that civilisation in
North and South America in your own Republic as
well as in ours depends, literally, upon the safety
of Tressa Cleves. For, if the Yezidees kill her,
then I do not see what is to save civilisation from
utter disintegration and total destruction."
There was a silence. Recklow was not certain,
that the President had been listening.
His Excellency sat with finger tips joined, gazing
pallidly into space; and Recklow heard him mur-
muring under his breath and all to himself, as
206 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
though to fix the deathless thought forever in his
"May I not say that mine is a single-track mind?
May I not say it? May I not, may I not, not,
not, not "
"TUNE sunshine poured through the window of his
bedroom in the Ritz; and Cleves had just fin-
ished dressing when he heard his wife's voice in
the adjoining sitting-room.
He had not supposed that Tressa was awake. He
hastened to tie his tie and pull on a smoking jacket,
listening all the while to his wife's modulated but
gay young voice.
Then he opened the sitting-room door and went
in. And found his wife entirely alone.
She looked up at him, her lips still parted as
though checked in what she had been saying, the
smile still visible in her blue eyes.
"Who on earth are you talking to?" he asked, his
bewildered glance sweeping the sunny room again.
She did not reply; her smile faded as a spot of
sunlight wanes, veiled by a cloud yet a glimmer of
it remained in her gaze as he came over to her.
"I thought they'd brought our breakfast," he said,
" hearing your voice. . . . Did you sleep well?"
He seated himself, and his perplexed scrutiny in-
cluded her frail morning robe of China silk, her
208 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
lovely bare arms, and her splendid hair twisted up
and pegged down with a jade dagger. Around her
bare throat and shoulders, too, was a magnificent
necklace of imperial jade which he had never be-
fore seen; and on one slim, white finger a superb
"By Jove 1" he said, "you're very exotic this morn-
ing, Tressa. I never before saw that negligee ef-
The girl laughed, glanced at her ring, lifted a frail
silken fold and examined the amazing embroidery.
"I wore it at the Lake of the Ghosts," she said.
The name of that place always chilled him. He
had begun to hate it, perhaps because of all that he
did not know about it about his wife's strange girl-
hood about Yian and the devil's Temple there
and about Sanang.
He said coldly but politely that the robe was
unusual and the jade very wonderful.
The alteration in his voice and expression did not
escape her. It meant merely masculine jealousy, but
Tressa never dreamed he cared in that way.
Breakfast was brought, served; and presently
these two young people were busy with their melons,
coffee, and toast in the sunny room high above the
softened racket of traffic echoing through avenue
and street below.
"Recklow telephoned me this morning," he re-
She looked up, her face serious.
".Recklow says that Yezidee mischief is taking vis-
ible shape. The Socialist Party is going to be split
into bits and a new party, impudently and publicly
announcing itself as the Communist Party of Amer-
ica, is being organised. Did you ever hear of any-
thing as shameless as outrageous in this Repub-
She said very quietly: "Sanang has taken pris-
oner the minds of these wretched people. He and
his remaining Yezidees are giving battle to the un-
armed minds of our American people."
"Gutchlug is dead," said Cleves, " and Yarg-
houz and Djamouk, and Yaddin."
"But Tiyang Khan is alive, and Togrul, and that
cunning demon Arrak Sou-Sou, called The Squir-
rel," she said. She bent her head, considering the
jade ring on her finger. " And Prince Sanang,"
she added in a low voice.
"Why didn't you let me shoot him when I had
the chance?" said Cleves harshly.
So abrupt was his question, so rough his sudden
manner, that the girl looked up in dismayed sur-
prise. Then a deep colour stained her face.
"Once," she said, "Prince Sanang held my heart
prisoner as Erlik held my soul. ... I told you
"Is that the reason you gave the fellow a chance?"
"Oh. . . . And possibly you gave Sanang a
chance because he still holds your affections !"
She said, crimson with the pain of the accusation :
"I tore my heart out of his keeping. ... I told you
210 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
that. . . . And, believing trying to believe what
you say to me, I have tried to tear my soul out of
the claws of Erlik. . . . Why are you angry?"
"I don't know. . . . I'm not angry. . . . The
whole horrible situation is breaking my nerve, I
guess. . . . With whom were you talking before I
After a silence the girl's smile glimmered.
"I'm afraid you won't like it if I tell you."
"You such things perplex and worry you. . . .
I am afraid you won't like me any the better if I
tell you who it was I had been talking with."
His intent gaze never left her. "I want you to
tell me," he repeated.
"I I was talking with Sa-n'sa," she faltered.
"With Sa-n'sa. ... We called her Sansa."
"Who the dickens is Sansa?"
"We were three comrades at the Temple," she
said timidly, " Yulun, Sansa, and myself. We
loved each other. We always went to the Lake of
the Ghosts together for protection "
"Sansa was a girl of the Aroulads, born at Buldak
as was Temujin. The night she was born three
moon-rainbows made circles around her Ya'ilak.
The Baroulass horsemen saw this and prayed loudly
in their saddles. Then they galloped to Yian and
came crawling on their bellies to Sanang Noiane with
the news of the miracle. And Sanang came with a
thousand riders in leather armour. And, 'What is this
child's name?' he shouted, riding into the Ya'ilak with
his black banners flapping around him like devil's
"A poor Manggoud came out of the tent of skins,
carrying the new born infant, and touched his head
to Sanang's stirrup. 'This babe is called Tchagane,'
he said, trembling all over. 'No !' cries Sanang, 'she
is called Sansa. Give her to me and may Erlik seize
"And he took the baby on his saddle in front of
him and struck his spurs deep; and so came Sansa to
Yian under a roaring rustle of black silk banners.
. . . It is so written in the Book of Iron. . . . Alla-
Cleves had leaned his elbow on the table, his fore-
head rested in his palm.
Perhaps he was striving in a bewildered way to
reconcile such occult and amazing things with the
year 1920 with the commonplace and noisy city of
New York with this pretty, modern, sunlit sitting-
room in the Ritz-Carlton on Madison Avenue with
this girl in her morning negligee opposite, her coffee
and melon fragrant at her elbow, her wonderful blue
eyes resting on him.
"Sansa," he repeated slowly, as though striving to
grasp even a single word from the confusion of
names and phrases that were sounding still in his
ears like the vibration of distant and unfamiliar seas.
"Is this the girl you were talking with just now?
212 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
In in this room?" he added, striving to under-
"She wasn't here, of course."
"Her body was not."
Tressa said in her sweet, humorous way: "You
must try to accustom yourself to such things, Victor.
You know that Yulun talks to me. ... I wanted to
talk to Sansa. The longing awakened me. So /
made the effort."
"And she came I mean the part of her which is
not her body."
"Yes, she came. We talked very happily while
I was bathing and dressing. Then we came in here.
She is such a darling!"
"Where is she?"
"In Yian, feeding her silk-worms and making a
garden. You see, Sansa is quite wealthy now, be-
cause when the Japanese came she filled a bullock
cart with great lumps of spongy gold from the Tem-
ple and filled another cart with Yu-stone, and took
the Hezar of Baroulass horsemen on guard at the
Lake of the Ghosts. And with this Keutch, riding
a Soubz horse, and dressed like an Urieng lancer, my
pretty little comrade Tchagane, who is called Sansa,
marched north preceded by two kettle-drums and a
toug with two tails "
Tressa's clear laughter checked her; she clapped
her hands, breathless with mirth at the picture she
"Kai!" she laughed; "what adorable impudence
has Sansa! Neither Tchortcha nor Khiounnou
dared ask her who were her seven ancestors ! No !
And when her caravan came to the lovely Yliang
river, my darling Sansa rode out and grasped the
lance from her Tougtchi and drove the point deep
into the fertile soil, crying in a clear voice : 'A place
for Tchagane and her people ! Make room for the
"Then her Manggoud, who carried the spare steel
tip for her lance, got out of his saddle and, gather-
ing a handful of mulberry leaves, rubbed the shaft
of the lance till it was all pale green.
' 'Toug iaglachakho !' cries my adorable Sansa !
'Build me here my Urdu ! * my Mocalla ! ** And
upon it pitch my tent of skins I"
Again Tressa's laughter checked her, and she
strove to control it with the jade ring pressed to her
"Oh, Victor," she added in a stifled voice, looking
at him out of eyes full of mischief, "you don't real-
ise how funny it was Sansa and her toug and her
Urdu Oh, Allah! the bones of Tchinguiz must
have rattled in his tomb I"
Her infectious laughter evoked a responsive but
perplexed smile from Cleves; but it was the smile of
a bewildered man who has comprehended very little
of an involved jest; and he looked around at the
modern room as though to find his bearings.
* Urdu = An imperial encampment.
* Mocalla = A platform used as a Moslem pulpit.
214 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
Suddenly Tressa leaned forward swiftly and laid
one hand on his.
"You don't think all this is very funny. You don't
like it," she said in soft concern.
"It isn't that, Tressa. But this is New York City
in the year 1920. And I can't I absolutely can not
get into touch hook up, mentally, with such things
with the unreal Oriental life that is so familiar
She nodded sympathetically: "I know. You feel
like a Mergued Pagan from Lake Baikal when all
the lamps are lighted in the Mosque ; like a camel
driver with his jade and gold when he enters Yar-
kand at sunrise."
"Probably I feel like that," said Cleves, laughing
outright. "I take your word, dear, anyway."
But he took more; he picked up her soft hand
where it still rested on his, pressed it, and instantly
reddened because he had done it. And Tressa's
bright flush responded so quickly that neither of
them understood, and both misunderstood.
The girl rose with heightened colour, not knowing
why she stood up or what she meant to do. And
Cleves, misinterpreting her emotion as a silent re-
buke to the invasion of that convention tacitly ac-
cepted between them, stood up, too, and began to
speak carelessly of commonplace things.
She made the effort to reply, scarcely knowing
what she was saying, so violently had his caress dis-
turbed her heart, and she was still speaking when
their telephone rang.
Cleves went; listened, then, still listening, sum-
moned Tressa to his side with a gesture.
"It's Selden," he said in a low voice. "He says
he has the Yezidee Arrak Sou-Sou under observa-
tion, and that he needs you desperately. Will you
"I'll go, of course," she replied, turning quite
Cleves nodded, still listening. After a while:
"All right. We'll be there. Good-bye," he said
sharply; and hung up.
Then he turned and looked at his wife.
"I wish to God," he muttered, "that this business
were ended. I I can't bear to have you go."
"I am not afraid. . . . Where is it?"
"I never heard of the place before. We're to
meet Selden at Tool's Acre.' "
"Where is it, Victor?"
"I don't know. Selden says there are no roads,
not even a spotted trail. It's a wilderness left
practically blank by the Geological Survey. Only
the contours are marked, and Selden tells me that
the altitudes are erroneous and the unnamed lakes
and water courses are all wrong. He says it is his
absolute conviction that the Geological Survey never
penetrated this wilderness at all, but merely skirted
it and guessed at what lay inside, because the map
he has from Washington is utterly misleading, and
the entire region is left blank except for a few
vague blue lines and spots indicating water, and a
few heights marked '1800.' "
216 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
He turned and began to pace the sitting-room,
frowning, perplexed, undecided.
"Selden tells me," he said, "that the Yezidee,
Arrak Sou-Sou, is in there and very busy doing
something or other. He says that he can do noth-
ing without you, and will explain why when we meet
Cleves turned on his heel and came over to where
his wife stood beside the sunny window.
"I hate to ask you to go. I know that was the
understanding. But this incessant danger your
constant peril "
"That does not count when I think of my coun-
try's peril," she said in a quiet voice. "When are
we to start? And what shall I pack in my trunk?"
"Dear child," he said with a brusque laugh, "it's
a wilderness and we carry what we need on our
backs. Selden meets us at a place called Glenwild,
on the edge of this wilderness, and we follow him
in on our two legs."
He glanced across at the mantel clock.
"If you'll dress," he said nervously, "we'll go to
some shop that outfits sportsmen for the North. Be-
cause, if we can, we ought to leave on the one o'clock
She smiled; came up to him. "Don't worry about
me," she said. "Because I also am nervous and
tired ; and I mean to make an end of every Yezidee
remaining in America."
They both flushed deeply.
She said in a steady voice: "Between God and
Erlik there is a black gulf where a million million
stars hang, lighting a million million other worlds.
"Prince Sanang's star glimmers there. It is a sun,
called Yramid. And it lights the planet, Yu-tsung.
Let him reign there between God and Erlik."
"You will slay this man?"
"God forbid I" she said, shuddering. "But I shall
send him to his own star. Let my soul be ransom for
his! And may Allah judge between us between
this man and me."
Then, in the still, sunny room, the girl turned to
face the East. And her husband saw her lips move
as though speaking, but heard no sound.
"What on earth are you saying there, all to your-
self?" he demanded at last.
She turned her head and looked at him across her
""I asked Sansa to help me. . . . And she says
Cleves nodded in a dazed way. Then he opened
a window and leaned there in the sunshine, looking
down into Madison Avenue. And the roar of traffic
seemed to soothe his nerves.
But "Good heavens!" he thought; "do such things
really go on in New York in 1920! Is the entire
world becoming a little crazy? Am I really in my
right mind when I believe that the girl I married is
talking, without wireless, to another girl in China 1"
218 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
He leaned there heavily, gazing down into the
street with sombre eyes.
"What a ghastly thing these Yezidees are trying
to do to the world these Assassins of men's
minds'!" he thought, turning away toward the door
of his bedroom.
As he crossed the threshold he stumbled, and look-
ing down saw that he had tripped over a white sheet
lying there. For a moment he thought it was a
sheet from his own bed, and he started to pick it
up. Then he saw the naked blade of a knife at his
With an uncontrollable shudder he stepped out of
the shroud and stood staring at the knife as though
it were a snake. It had a curved blade and a bone
hilt coarsely inlaid with Arabic characters in brass.
The shroud was a threadbare affair perhaps a
bed-sheet from some cheap lodging house. But its
significance was so repulsive that he hesitated to
However, he was ashamed to have it discovered
in his room. He picked up the brutal-looking knife
and kicked the shroud out into the corridor, where
they could guess if they liked how such a rag got
into the Ritz-Carlton.
Then he searched his bedroom, and, of course,
discovered nobody hiding. But chills crawled on his
spine while he was about it, and he shivered still as
he stood in the centre of the room examining the
knife and testing edge and point.
Then, close to his ear, a low voice whispered:
"Be careful, my lord; the Yezidee knife is poisoned.
But it is written that a poisoned heart is more dan-
He had turned like a flash; and he saw, between
him and the sitting-room door, a very young girl
with slightly slanting eyes, and rose and ivory fea-
tures as perfect as though moulded out of tinted
She wore a loose blue linen robe, belted in, short
at the elbows and skirt, showing two creamy-skinned
arms and two bare feet in straw sandals. In one
hand she had a spray of purple mulberries, and she
looked coolly at Cleves and ate a berry or two.
"Give me the knife," she said calmly.
He handed it to her; she wiped it with a mulberry
leaf and slipped it through her girdle.
"I am Sansa," she said with a friendly glance at
him, busy with her fruit.
Cleves strove to speak naturally, but his voice
"Is it you I mean your real self your own
"It's my real self. Yes. But my body is asleep
in my mulberry grove."
"In in China?"
"Yes," she said calmly, detaching another mul-
berry and eating it. A few fresh leaves fell on the
Sansa chose another berry. "You know," she
said, "that I came to Tressa this morning, to my
little Heart of Fire I came when she called me. And
220 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
I was quite sleepy, too. But I heard her, though
there was a night wind in the mulberry trees, and
the river made a silvery roaring noise in the dark.
. . . And now I must go. But I shall come again
She smiled shyly and held out her lovely little
hand, " As Tressa tells me is your custom in Amer-
ica," she said, "I offer you a good-bye."
He took her hand and found it a warm, smooth
thing of life and pulse.
"Why," he stammered in his astonishment, "you
are real! You are not a ghost!"
"Yes, I am real," she answered, surprised, "but
I'm not in my body, if you mean that." Then she
laughed and withdrew her hand, and, going, made
him a friendly gesture.
"Cherish, my lord, my darling Heart of Fire.
Serpents twist and twine. So do rose vines. May
their petals make your path of velvet and sweet
scented. May everything that is round be a pome-
granate for you two to share ; may everything that
sways be lilies bordering a path wide enough for two.
In the name of the Most Merciful God, may the
only cry you hear be the first sweet wail of your first-
born. And when the tenth shall be born, may you
and Heart of Fire bewail your fate because both of
you desire more children I"
She was laughing when she disappeared. Cleves
thought she was still there, so radiant the sunshine,
so sweet the scent in the room.
But the golden shadow by the door was empty of
her. If she had slipped through the doorway he
had not noticed her departure. Yet she was no
longer there. And, when he understood, he turned
back into the empty room, quivering all over. Sud-
denly a terrible need of Tressa assailed him an im-
perative necessity to speak to her hear her voice.
"Tressa !" he called, and rested his hand on the
centre table, feeling weak and shaken to the knees.
Then he looked down and saw the mulberry leaves
lying scattered there, tender and green and still
dewy with the dew of China.
"Oh, my God!" he whispered, "such things are!
It isn't my mind that has gone wrong. There are
The conviction swept him like a tide till his
senses swam. As though peering through a mist of
gold he saw his wife enter and come to him; felt
her arm about him, sustaining him where he swayed
slightly with one hand on the table among the mul-
"Ah," murmured Tressa, noticing the green
leaves, "she oughtn't to have done that. That was
thoughtless of her, to show herself to you."
Cleves looked at her in a dazed way. "The body
is nothing," he muttered. "The rest only is real.
That is the truth, isn't it?"
"I seem to be beginning to believe it. ... Sansa
said things I shall try to tell you some day
dear. . . . I'm so glad to hear your voice."
"Are you?" she murmured.
222 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"And so glad to feel your touch. ... I found a
shroud on my threshold. And a knife."
"The Yezidees are becoming mountebanks. . . .
Where is the knife?" she asked scornfully.
"Sansa said it was poisoned. She took it. She
she said that a poisoned heart is more dangerous
Then Tressa threw up her head and called softly
into space : "Sansa ! Little Silk-Moth ! What are
these mischievous things you have told to my lord?"
She stood silent, listening. And, in the answer
which he could not hear, there seemed to be some-
thing that set his young wife's cheeks aflame.
"Sansa! Little devil!" she cried, exasperated.
"May Erlik send his imps to pinch you if you have
said to my lord these shameful things. It was im-
pudent! It was mischievous! You cover me with
shame and confusion, and I am humbled in the dust
of my lord's feet!"
Cleves looked at her, but she could not sustain
"Did Sansa say to you what she said to me?" he
"Yes. ... I ask your pardon. . . . And I had
already told her you did not did not were not in
in love with me. ... I ask your pardon."
"Ask more. . . . Ask your heart whether it
would care to hear that I am in love. And with
whom. Ask your heart if it could ever care to listen
to what my heart could say to it."
"Y-yes I'll ask my heart," she faltered. . . .
"I think I had better finish dressing " She
lifted her eyes, gave him a breathless smile as he
caught her hand and kissed it.
"It it would be very wonderful," she stammered,
" if our necessity should be-become our choice."
But that speech seemed to scare her and she fled,
leaving her husband standing tense and upright in
the middle of the room.
Their train on the New York Central Railroad
left the Grand Central Terminal at one in the after-
Cleves had made his arrangements by wire. They
travelled lightly, carrying, except for the clothing
they wore, only camping equipment for two.
It was raining in the Hudson valley; they rushed
through the outlying towns and Po'keepsie in a sum-
At Hudson the rain slackened. A golden mist en-
veloped Albany, through which the beautiful tower
and facades along the river loomed, masking the
huge and clumsy Capitol and the spires beyond.
At Schenectady, rifts overhead revealed glimpses
of blue. At Amsterdam, where they descended from
the train, the flag on the arsenal across the Mohawk
flickered brilliantly in the sunny wind.
By telegraphic arrangement, behind the station
waited a touring car driven by a trooper of State
Constabulary, who, with his comrade, saluted smart-
ly as Cleves and Tressa came up.
There was a brief, low-voiced conversation. Their
224 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
camping outfit was stowed aboard, Tressa sprang
into the tonneau followed by Cleves, and the car
started swiftly up the inclined roadway, turned to
the right across the railroad bridge, across the trol-
ley tracks, and straight on up the steep hill paved
with blocks of granite.
On the level road which traversed the ridge at
last they speeded up, whizzed past the great hedged
farm where racing horses are bred, rushing through
the afternoon sunshine through the old-time Scotch
settlements which once were outposts of the old New
Nine miles out the macadam road ended. They
veered to the left over a dirt road, through two
hamlets ; then turned to the right.
The landscape became rougher. To their left lay
the long, low Maxon hills; behind them the May*
field range stretched northward into the open jaws
of the Adirondacks.
All around them were woods, now. Once a Gate
House appeared ahead; and beyond it they crossed
four bridges over a foaming, tumbling creek whers.
Cleves caught glimpses of shadowy forms in amber-
tinted pools big yellow trout that sank unhurriedly
out of sight among huge submerged boulders wet
The State trooper beside the chauffeur turned to
Cleves, his purple tie whipping in the wind.
"Yonder is Glenwild, sir," he said.
It was a single house on the flank of a heavily
forested hill. Deep below to the left the creek leaped
two cataracts and went flashing out through a belt
of cleared territory ablaze with late sunshine.
The car swung into the farm-yard, past the barn
on the right, and continued on up a very rough trail.
"This is the road to the Ireland Vlaie," said the
trooper. "It is possible for cars for another mile
Splendid spruce, pine, oak, maple, and hemlock
fringed the swampy, uneven trail which was no more
than a wide, rough vista cut through the forest.
And, as the trooper had said, a little more than a
mile farther the trail became a tangle of bushes and
swale; the car slowed down and stopped; and a man
rose from where he was seated on a mossy log and
came forward, his rifle balanced across the hollow
of his left arm.
The man was Alek Selden.
It was long after dark and they were still travel*
ling through pathless woods by the aid of their elec-
There was little underbrush; the forest of spruce
and hemlock was first growth.
Cleves shined the trees but could discover no
blazing, no trodden path.
In explanation, Selden said briefly that he had
hunted the territory for years.
"But I don't begin to know it," he added. "There
are vast and ugly regions of bog and swale where a
sea of alders stretches to the horizon. There are
desolate wastes of cat-briers and witch-hopple un-
226 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
der leprous tangles of grey birches, where stealthy
little brooks darkle deep under matted debris. Only
wild things can travel such country.
"Then there are strange, slow-flowing creeks in
the perpetual shadows of tamarack woods, where
many a man has gone in never to come out."
"Why?" asked Tressa.
"Under the tender carpet of green cresses are
shining black bogs set with tussock; and under the
bog stretches quicksand, and death."
"Do you know these places?" asked Cleves.
Cleves stepped forward to Tressa's side.
"Keep flashing the ground," he said harshly. "I
don't want you to step into some hell-hole. I'm sorry
I brought you, anyway."
"But I had to come," she said in a low voice.
Like the two men, she wore a grey flannel shirt,
knickers, and spiral puttees.
They, however, carried rifles as well as packs;
and the girl's pack was lighter.
They had halted by a swift, icy rivulet to eat, with-
out building a fire. After that they crossed the
Ireland Vlaie and the main creek, where remains
of a shanty stood on the bluff above the right bank
the last sign of man.
Beyond lay the uncharted land, skimped and
shirked entirely in certain regions by map-makers;
an unknown wilderness on the edges of which Sel-
den had often camped when deer shooting.
It was along this edge he was leading them, now,
to a lean-to which he had erected, and from which
he had travelled in to Glenwild to use the superin-
tendent's telephone to New York.
There seemed to be no animal life stirring in this
forest; their torches illuminated no fiery orbs of
dazed wild things surprised at gaze in the wilder-
ness; no leaping furry form crossed their flashlights'
There were no nocturnal birds to be seen or heard,
either: no bittern squawked from hidden sloughs; no
herons howled; not an owl-note, not a whispering
cry of a whippoorwill, not the sudden uncanny twit-
ter of those little birds that become abruptly vocal
after dark, interrupted the dense stillness of the
And it was not until his electric torch glimmered
repeatedly upon reaches of dusk-hidden bog that
Cleves understood how Selden took his bearings
for the night was thick and there were no stars.
"Yes," said Selden tersely, "I'm trying to skirt
the bog until I shine a peeled stick."
An hour later the peeled alder-stem glittered in
the beam of the torches. In ten minutes something
white caught the electric rays.
It was Selden's spare undershirt drying on a bush
behind the lean-to.
"Can we have a fire?" asked Cleves, relieving his
wife of her pack and striding into the open-faced
228 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"Yes, I'll fix it," replied Selden. "Are you all
right, Mrs. Cleves?"
Tressa said: "Delightfully tired, thank you." And
smiled faintly at her husband as he let go his own
pack, knelt, and spread a blanket for his wife.
He remained there, kneeling, as she seated herself.
"Are you quite fit?" he asked bluntly. Yet,
through his brusqueness her ear caught a vague
undertone of something else anxiety perhaps per-
haps tenderness. And her heart stirred deliciously
in her breast.
He inflated a pillow for her ; the firelight glim*
mered, brightened, spread glowing across her feet.
She lay back with a slight sigh, relaxed.
Then, suddenly, the thrill of her husband's touch
flooded her face with colour; but she lay motionless,
one arm flung across her eyes, while he unrolled her
puttees and unlaced her muddy shoes.
A heavenly warmth from the fire dried her stock-
inged feet. Later, on the edge of sleep, she opened
her eyes and found herself propped upright on her
Drowsily, obediently she swallowed spoonfuls of
the hot broth which he administered.
"Are you really quite comfortable, dear?" he
"Wonderfully. . . . And so very happy. . . .
Thank you dear."
She lay back, suffering him to bathe her face and
hands with warm water.
When the fire was only a heap of dying coals, she
turned over on her right side and extended her hand
a little way into the darkness. Searching, half asleep,
she touched her husband, and her hand relaxed in
his nervous clasp. And she fell into the most perfect
sleep which she had known in years.
She dreamed that somebody whispered to her,
"Darling, darling, wake up. It is morning, be-
Suddenly she opened her eyes; and saw her hus-
band set a tray, freshly plaited out of Indian willow,
beside her blanket.
"Here's your breakfast, pretty lady," he said,
smilingly. "And over there is an exceedingly frigid
pool of water. You're to have the camp to yourself
for the next hour or two."
"You dear fellow," she murmured, still confused
by sleep, and reached out to touch his hand. He
caught hers and kissed it, back and palm, and got
up hastily as though scared.
"Selden and I will stand sentry," he muttered.
"There is no hurry, you know."
She heard him and his comrade walking away
over dried leaves; their steps receded; a dry stick
cracked distantly; then silence stealthily invaded the
place like a cautious living thing, creeping unseen
through the golden twilight of the woods.
Seated in her blanket, she drank the coffee; ate a
little; then lay down again in the early sun, feeling
the warmth of the heap of whitening coals at her
230 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
For an hour she dozed awake, drowsily opening
her eyes now and then to look across the glade at
the pool over which a single dragon-fly glittered on
Finally she rose resolutely, grasped a bit of soap,
and went down to the edge of the pool.
Tressa was in flannel shirt and knickers when her
husband and Selden hailed the camp and presently
appeared walking slowly toward the dead fire.
Their grave faces checked her smile of greeting;
her husband came up and laid one hand on her arm,
looking at her out of thoughtful, preoccupied eyes.
"What is the Tchordagh?" he said in a low voice.
The girl's quiet face went white.
"The the Tchordagh!" she stammered.
"Yes, dear. What is it?"
"I don't don't know where you heard that
term," she whispered. "The Tchordagh is the
the power of Erlik. It is a term. ... In it is
comprehended all the evil, all the cunning, all the
perverted spiritual intelligence of Evil, its sinister
might, its menace. It is an Alouad-Yezidee term,
and it is written in brass in Eighur characters on the
Eight Towers, and on the Rampart of Gog and
Magog; nowhere else in the world!"
"It is written on a pine tree a few paces from this
camp," said Cleves absently.
Selden said: "It has not been there more than an
hour or two, Mrs. Cleves. A square of bark was
cut out and on the white surface of the wood this
word is written in English."
"Can you tell us what it signifies?" asked Cleves,
Tressa's studied effort at self-control was apparent
to both men.
She said: "When that word is written, then it is
a death struggle between all the powers of Darkness
and those who have read the written letters of that
word. . . . For it is written in The Iron Book that
no one but the Assassin of Khorassan excepting
the Eight Sheiks shall read that written word and
live to boast of having read it."
"Let us sit here and talk it over," said Selden
And when Tressa was seated on a fallen log, and
Cleves settled down cross-legged at her feet, Selden
spoke again, very soberly:
"On the edges of these woods, to the northwest,
lies a sea of briers, close growing, interwoven and
matted, strong and murderous as barbed wire.
"Miles out in this almost impenetrable region lies
a patch of trees called Fool's Acre.
"At Wells I heard that the only man who had
ever managed to reach Fool's Acre was a trapper,
and that he was still living.
"I found him at Rainbow Lake a very old man,
who had a fairly clear recollection of Fool's Acre
and his exhausting journey there.
"And he told me that man had been there before
he had. For there was a roofless stone house there,
232 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
and the remains of a walled garden. And a skull
deep in the wild grasses."
Selden paused and looked down at the recently
healed scars on his wrists and hands.
"It was a rotten trip," he said bluntly. "It took
me three days to cut a tunnel through that accursed
tangle of matted brier and grey birch. . . . Fool's
Acre is a grove of giant trees first growth pine,
oak, and maple. Great outcrops of limestone ledges
bound it on the east. A brook runs through the
"There is a house there, no longer roofless, and
built of slabs of fossil-pitted limestone. The glass in
the windows is so old that it is iridescent.
"A seven-foot wall encloses the house, built also
of slabs blasted out of the rock outcrop, and all
pitted with fossil shells.
"Inside is a garden not the remains of one a
beautiful garden full of unfamiliar flowers. And
in this garden I saw the Yezidee on his knees making
living things out of lumps of dead earth!"
"The Tchordagh!" whispered the girl.
"What was the Yezidee doing?" demanded
Involuntarily all three drew nearer each other
there in the sunshine.
"It was difficult for me to see," said Selden in his
quiet, serious voice. "It was nearly twilight: I lay
flat on top of the wall under the curving branches of
a huge syringa bush in full bloom. The Yezi-
"Were there two!" exclaimed Clever
"Two. They were squatting on the old stone patK
bordering one of the flower-beds." He turned to
Tressa: "They both wore white cloths twisted
around their heads, and long soft garments of white.
Under these their bare, brown legs showed, but
they wore things on their naked feet which were
shaped like what we call Turkish slippers only dif-
"Black and green," nodded Tressa with the vagiUt
horror growing in her face.
"Yes. The soles of their shoes were bright
"Green is the colour sacred to Islam," saidTressa.
"The priests of Satan defile it by staining with green
the soles of their footwear."
After an interval: "Go on," said Cleves ner-
Selden drew closer, and they bent their heads to
"I don't, even now, know what the Yezidees were
actually doing. In the twilight it was hard to see
clearly. But I'll tell you what it looked like to me.
One of these squatting creatures would scoop out a
handful of soil from the flower-bed, and mould it
for a few moments between his lean, sinewy fingers,
and then he'd open his hands and and something
alive something small like a rat or a toad, or God
knows what, would escape from between his palms
and run out into the grass "
234 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
Selden's voice failed and he looked at Cleves with
"I can't can't make you understand how repul-
sive to me it was to see a wriggling live thing creep
out between their fingers and and go running or
scrambling away little loathsome things with
humpy backs that hopped or scurried through the
"What on earth were these Yezidees doing,
Tressa?" asked Cleves almost roughly.
The girl's white face was marred by the imprints
of deepening horror.
"It is the Tchor-Dagh," she said mechanically.
"They are using every resource of hell to destroy
me testing the gigantic power of Evil as though
it were some vast engine charged with thunderous
destruction ! and they were testing it to discover its
terrific capacity to annihilate "
Her voice died in her dry throat; she dropped her
bloodless visage into both hands and remained
Both men looked at her in silence, not daring to
interfere. Finally the girl lifted her pallid face from
A That is what they were doing," she said in a
dull voice. "Out of inanimate earth they were
making things animate living creatures to to
test the hellish power which they are storing con-
centrating for my destruction."
"What is their purpose?" asked Cleves harshly.
"What do these Mongol Sorcerers expect to gain
by making little live things out of lumps of garden
"They are testing their power," whispered the
"Like tuning up a huge machine?" muttered
"For what purpose?"
"To make larger living creatures out of of
"They can't they can't create!" exclaimed
Cleves. "I don't know how by what filthy tricks
they make rats out of dirt. But they can't make
a anything like a like a man!"
Tressa's body trembled slightly.
"Once," she said, "in the temple, Prince Sanang
took dust which was brought in sacks of goat-skin,
and fashioned the heap of dirt with his hands, so
that it resembled the body of a man lying there on
the marble floor under the shrine of Erlik. . . . And
and then, there in the shadows where only the
Dark Star burned that black lamp which is called
the Dark Star the long heap of dust lying there on
the marble pavement began to to breathe! "
She pressed both hands over her breast as though
to control her trembling body: "I saw it; I saw the
long shape of dust begin to breathe, to stir, move,
and slowly lift itself " ^
"A Yezidee trick!" gasped Cleves; but he also was
"God!" whispered the girl. "Allah alone knows
236 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
the Merciful, the Long Suffering He knows
what it was that we temple girls saw there that
Yulun saw that Sa-n'sa and I beheld there rising
up like a man from the marble floor and standing
erect in the shadowy twilight of the Dark
Star. . . ."
Her hands gripped at her breast; her face was
"Then," she said, "I saw Prince Sanang draw his
sabre of Indian steel, and he struck . . . once only.
. . . And a dead man fell down where the thing had
stood. And all the marble was flooded with scarlet
"A trick," repeated Cleves, in the ghost of his own
voice. But his gaze grew vacant.
Presently Selden spoke in tones that sounded
weakly querulous from emotional reaction:
"There is a path a tunnel under the matted
briers. It took me more than a week to cut it out.
It is possible to reach Fool's Acre. We can try
with our rifles if you say so, Mrs. Cleves."
The girl looked up. A little colour came into her
cheeks. She shook her head.
"Their bodies may not be there in the garden,"
she said absently. "What you saw may not have
been that part of them the material which dies by
knife or bullet. . . . And it is necessary that these
Yezidees should die."
"Can you do anything?" asked Cleves, hoarsely.
She looked at her husband; tried to smile:
"I must try. ... I think we had better not lose
any time if Mr. Selden will lead us."
"Yes, we had better go, I think," said the girl.
Her smile still remained stamped on her lips, but
her eyes seemed preoccupied as though following
the movements of something remote that was passing
across the far horizon.
A DEATH TRAIL
THE way to Fool's Acre was under a tangled
canopy of thorns, under rotting windfalls of
grey mirch, through tunnel after tunnel of
fallen debris woven solidly by millions of strands of
tough cat-briers which cut the flesh like barbed wire.
There was blood on Tressa, where her flannel
shirt had been pierced in a score of places. Cleves
and Selden had been painfully slashed.
Silent, thread-like streams flowed darkling under
the tangled mass that roofed them. Sometimes they
could move upright; more often they were bent
double; and there were long stretches where they
had to creep forward on hands and knees through
sparse wild grasses, soft, rotten soil, or paths of
sphagnum which cooled their feverish skin in vel-
vety, icy depths.
At noon they rested and ate, lying prone under
the matted roof of their tunnel.
Cleves and Selden had their rifles. Tressa lay like
a slender boy, her brier-torn hands empty.
And, as she lay there, her husband made a sponge
of a handful of sphagnum moss, and bathed her
face and her arms, cleansing the dried blood from
A DEATH TRAIL 239
the skin, while the girl looked up at him out of
grave, inscrutable eyes.
The sun hung low over the wilderness when they
came to the woods of Fool's Acre. They crept cau-
tiously out of the briers, among ferns and open spots
carpeted with pine needles and dead leaves which
were beginning to burn ruddy gold under the level
rays of the sun.
Lying flat behind an enormous oak, they remained
listening for a while. Selden pointed through the
woods, eastward, whispering that the house stood
there not far away.
"Don't you think we might risk the chance and
use our rifles?" asked Cleves in a low voice.
"No. It is the Tchor-Dagh that confronts us.
I wish to talk to Sansa," she murmured.
A moment later Selden touched her arm.
"My God," he breathed, "who is that!"
"It is Sansa," said Tressa calmly, and sat up
among the ferns. And the next instant Sansa stepped
daintily out of the red sunlight and seated herself
among them without a sound.
Nobody spoke. The newcomer glanced at Selden,
smiled slightly, blushed, then caught a glimpse of
Cleves where he lay in the brake, and a mischievous
glimmer came into her slanting eyes.
"Did I not tell my lord truths?" she inquired in a
demure whisper. "As surely as the sun is a dragon,
and the flaming pearl burns between his claws, so
surely burns the soul of Heart of Flame between thy
240 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
guarding hands. There are as many words as there
are demons, my lord, but it is written that Niaz is
the greatest of all words save only the name of
She laughed without any sound, sweetly malicious
where she sat among the ferns.
"Heart of Flame," she said to Tressa, "you called
me and I made the effort.''
"Darling," said Tressa in her thrilling voice, "the
Yezidees are making living things out of dust, as
Sanang No'iane made that thing in the Temple. . . .
And slew it before our eyes."
"The Tchor-Dagh," said Sansa calmly.
"The Tchor-Dagh," whispered Tressa.
Sansa's smooth little hands crept up to the collar
of her odd, blue tunic; grasped it.
"In the name of God the Merciful," she said
without a tremor, "listen to me, Heart of Flame, and
may my soul be ransom for yours!"
"I hear you, Sansa."
Sansa said, her fingers still grasping the em-
broidered collar of her tunic:
"Yonder, behind walls, two Tower Chiefs meddle
with the Tchor-Dagh, making living things out of
the senseless .dust they scrape from the garden."
Selden moistened his dry lips. Sansa said:
"The Yezidees who have come into this wilder-
ness are Arrak Sou-Sou, the Squirrel; and Tiyang
Khan. . . . May God remember them in Hell!"
"May God remember them," said Tressa me-
A DEATH TRAIL 241
"And these two Yezidee Sorcerers," continued
Sansa coolly, "have advanced thus far in the Tchor-
Dagh ; for they now roam these woods, digging like
demons for the roots of Ginseng; and thou knowest,
Heart of Flame, what that indicates."
"Does Ginseng grow in these woods!" exclaimed
Tressa with a new terror in her widening eyes.
"Ginseng grows here, little Rose-Heart, and the
roots are as perfect as human bodies. And Tiyang
Khan squats in the walled garden moulding the Gin-
seng roots in his unclean hands, while Sou-Sou the
Squirrel scratches among the dead leaves of the
woods for roots as perfect as a naked human body.
"All day long the Sou-Sou rummages among the
trees; all day longTiyang pats and rubs and moulds
the Ginseng roots in his skinny fingers. It is the
Tchor-Dagh, Heart of Flame. And these Sorcerers
must be destroyed."
"Are their bodies here?"
"Arrak is in the body. And thus it shall be ac-
complished: listen attentively, Rose Heart Afire!
1 shall remain here with " she looked at Selden
and flushed a trifle, " with you, my lord. And
when the Squirrel comes a-digging, so shall my lord
slay him with a bullet. . . . And when I hear his
soul bidding his body farewell, then I shall make
prisoner his soul. . . . And send it to the Dark Star.
. . . And the rest shall be in the hands of Allah."
She turned to Tressa and caught her hands in
both of her own:
"It is written on the Iron Pages," she whispered,
242 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"that we belong to Erlik and we return to him. But
in the Book of Gold it is written otherwise: 'God
preserve us from Satan who was stoned!' . . .
Therefore, in the name of Allah ! Now then, Heart
of Flame, do your duty!"
A burning flush leaped over Tressa's features.
"Is my soul, then, my own!"
"It belongs to God," said Sansa gravely.
"God is greatest."
"But was God there at the Lake of the
"God is everywhere. It is so written in the Book
of Gold," replied Sansa, pressing her hands ten-
"Recite the Fatha, Heart of Flame. Thy lips
shall not stiffen; God listens."
Tressa rose in the sunset glory and stood as
though dazed, and all crimsoned in the last fiery
bars of the declining sun.
Cleves also rose.
Sansa laughed noiselessly: "My lord would go
whither thou goest, Heart of Fire I" she whispered.
"And thy ways shall be his ways!"
Tressa's cheeks flamed and she turned and looked
Then Sansa rose and laid a hand on Tressa's arm
and on her husband's:
"Listen attentively. Tiyang Khan must be
destroyed. The signal sounds when my lord's rifle-
shot makes a loud noise here among these trees."
A DEATH TRAIL 243
"Can I prevail against the Tchor-Dagh?" asked
"Is not that event already in God's hands, dar-
ling?" said Sansa softly. She smiled and resumed
her seat beside Selden, amid the drooping fern
"Bid thy dear lord leave his rifle here," she added
Cleves laid down his weapon. Selden pointed
eastward in silence.
So they went together into the darkening woods.
In the dusk of heavy foliage overhanging the
garden, Tressa lay flat as a lizard on the top of the
wall. Beside her lay her husband.
In the garden below them flowers bloomed in
scented thickets, bordered by walks of flat stone
slabs split from boulders. A little lawn, very green,
centred the garden.
And on this lawn, in the clear twilight still tinged
with the sombre fires of sundown, squatted a man
dressed in a loose white garment.
Save for a twisted breadth of white cloth, his
shaven head was bare. His sinewy feet were naked,
too, the lean, brown toes buried in the grass.
Tressa's lips touched her husband's ear.
"Tiyang Khan," she breathed. "Watch what he
Shoulder to shoulder they lay there, scarcely
daring to breathe. Their eyes were fastened on the
Mongol Sorcerer, who, squatted below on his
244 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
haunches, grave and deliberate as a great grey ape,
continued busy with the obscure business which so
intently preoccupied him.
In a short semi-circle on the grass in front of him
he had placed a dozen wild Ginseng roots. The
roots were enormous, astoundingly shaped like the
human body, almost repulsive in their weird sym-
The Yezidee had taken one of these roots into his
hands. Squatting there in the semi-dusk, he began
to massage it between his long, muscular fingers,
rubbing, moulding, pressing the root with caressing
His unhurried manipulation, for a few moments,
seemed to produce no result. But presently the Gin-
seng root became lighter in colour and more supple,
yielding to his fingers, growing ivory pale, sinuously
limber in a newer and more delicate symmetry.
"Look!" gasped Cleves, grasping his wife's arm.
'What is that man doing!"
'The Tchor-Dagh I" whispered Tressa. "Do you
see what lies twisting there in his hands !"
The Ginseng root had become the tiny naked
body of a woman a little ivory-white creature,
struggling to escape between the hands that had
created it dark, powerful, masterly hands, open-
ing leisurely now, and releasing the living being they
The thing scrambled between the fingers of the
Sorcerer, leaped into the grass, ran a little way and
A DEATH TRAIL 245
hid, crouched down, panting, almost hidden by the
long grass. The shocked watchers on the wall could
still see the creature. Tressa felt Cleves' body trem-
bling beside her. She rested a cool, steady hand
"It is the Tchor-Dagh," she breathed close to his
face. "The Mongol Sorcerer is becoming for-
"Oh, God!" murmured Cleves, "that thing he
made is alive! I saw it. I can see it hiding there in
the grass. It's frightened breathing! It's alive!"
His pistol, clutched in his right hand, quivered.
His wife laid her hand on it and cautiously shook
"No," she said, "that is of no use."
"But what that Yezidee is doing is is blas-
"Watch him! His mind is stealthily feeling its
way among the laws and secrets of the Tchor-Dagh.
He has found a thread. He is following it through
the maze into hell's own labyrinth ! He has created
a tiny thing in the image of the Creator. He will
try to create a larger being now. Watch him with
his Ginseng roots!"
Tiyang, looming ape-like on his haunches in the
deepening dusk, moulded and massaged che Gin-
seng roots, one after another. And one after
another, tiny naked creatures wriggled out of his
palms between his fingers and scuttled away into the
24,6 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
Already the dim lawn was alive with them, crawl-
ing, scurrying through the grass, creeping in among
the flower-beds, little, ghostly-white things that glim-
mered from shade into shadow like moonbeams.
Tressa's mouth touched her husband's ear:
"It is for the secret of Destruction that the Yezi-
dee seeks. But first he must learn the secret of
creation. He is learning. . . . And he must learn
no more than he has already learned."
"That Yezidee is a living man. Shall I fire?"
"I can kill him with the first shot."
"Hark!" she whispered excitedly, her hand clos-
ing convulsively on her husband's arm.
The whip-crack of a rifle-shot still crackled in
Tiyang had leaped to his feet in the dusk, a Gin-
seng root, half-alive, hanging from one hand and
beginning to squirm.
Suddenly the first moonbeam fell across the wall.
And in its lustre Tressa rose to her knees and flung
up her right hand.
Then it was as though her palm caught and re-
flected the moon's ray, and hurled it in one blinding
shaft straight into the dark visage of Tiyang-Khan.
The Yezidee fell as though he had been pierced
by a shaft of steel, and lay sprawling there on the
grass in the ghastly glare.
And where his features had been there gaped
only a hole into the head.
A DEATH TRAIL 247
Then a dreadful thing occurred; for everywhere
the grass swarmed with the little naked creatures he
had made, running, scrambling, scuttling, darting
into the black hole which had been the face of Ti-
They poured into the awful orifice, crowding, jost-
ling one another so violently that the head jerked
from side to side on the grass, a wabbling, inert,
soggy mass in the moonlight.
And presently the body of Tiyang-Khan, Warden
of the Rampart of Gog and Magog, and Lord of
the Seventh Tower, began to burn with white fire
a low, glimmering combustion that seemed to clothe
the limbs like an incandescent mist.
On the wall knelt Tressa, the glare from her lifted
hand streaming over the burning form below.
Cleves stood tall and shadowy beside his wife, the
useless pistol hanging in his grasp.
Then, in the silence of the woods, and very near,
they heard Sansa laughing. And Selden's anxious
"Arrak is dead. The Sou-Sou hangs across a
rock, head down, like a shot squirrel. Is all well
"Tiyang is on his way to his star," said Tressa
calmly. "Somewhere in the world his body has bid
its mind farewell. . . . And so his body may live
for a little, blind, in mental darkness, fed by others,
and locked in all day, all night, until the end."
Sansa, at the base of the wall, turned to Selden.
248 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"Shall I bring my body with me, one day, my
lord?" she asked demurely.
"Oh, Sansa " he whispered, but she placed
a fragrant hand across his lips and laughed at him
in the moonlight.
IN THE FIRELIGHT
IN 1920 the whole spiritual world was trembling
under the thundering shock of the Red Surf
pounding the frontiers of civilisation from pole
Up out of the hell-pit of Asia had boiled the
molten flood, submerging Russia, dashing in giant
waves over Germany and Austria, drenching Italy,
France, England with its bloody spindrift.
And now the Red Rain was sprinkling the United
States from coast to coast, and the mindless ad-
ministration, scared out of its stupidity at last, began
a frantic attempt to drain the country of the filthy
flood and throw up barriers against the threatened
In every state and city Federal agents made whole-
sale arrests too late!
A million minds had already been perverted and
dominated by the terrible Sect of the Assassins.
A million more were sickening under the awful
psychic power of the Yezidee.
Thousands of the disciples of the Yezidee devil-
worshipers had already been arrested and held for
deportation, poor, wretched creatures whose minds
250 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
were no longer their own, but had been stealthily
surprised, seized and mastered by Mongol adepts
and filled with ferocious hatred against their fellow
Yet, of the Eight Yezidee Assassins only two now
remained alive in America, Togrul, and Sanang,
the Slayer of Souls.
Yarghouz was dead; Djamouk the Fox, Kahn of
the Fifth Tower was dead; Yaddin-ed-Din, Arrak
the Sou-Sou, Gutchlug, Tiyang Khan, all were dead.
Six Towers had become dark and silent. From them
the last evil thought, the last evil shape had sped;
the last wicked prayer had been said to Erlik,
Khagan of all Darkness.
But his emissary on earth, Prince Sanang, still
lived. And at Sanang' s heels stole Togrul, Tougtchi
to Sanang Noiane, the Slayer of Souls.
In the United States there had been a cessation
of the active campaign of violence toward those in
authority. Such unhappy dupes of the Yezidees as
the I. W. W. and other radicals were, for the time,
physically quiescent. Crude terrorism with its more
brutal outrages against life and law ceased. But
two million sullen eyes, in which all independent
human thought had been extinguished, watched un-
blinking the wholesale arrests by the government
watched panic-stricken officials rushing hither and
thither to execute the mandate of a miserable ad-
ministration watched and waited in dreadful
IN THE FIRELIGHT 251
In that period of ominous quiet which possessed
the land, the little group of Secret Service men that
surrounded the young girl who alone stood between
a trembling civilisation and the threat of hell's own
chaos, became convinced that Sanang was preparing
a final and terrible effort to utterly overwhelm the
last vestige of civilisation in the United States.
What shape that plan would develop they could
John Recklow sent Benton to Chicago to watch
that centre of infection for the appearance there of
the Yezidee Togrul.
Selden went to Boston where a half-witted group
of parlour-socialists at Cambridge were talking too
loudly and loosely to please even the most tolerant
But neither Togrul nor Sanang had, so far, ma-
terialised in either city; and John Recklow prowled
the purlieus of New York, haunting strange
byways and obscure quarters where the dull embers
of revolution always smouldered, watching for the
Yezidee who was the deep-bedded, vital root of this
psychic evil which menaced the minds of all man-
kind, Sanang, the Slayer of Souls.
Recklow's lodgings were tucked away in Westover
Court three bedrooms, a parlour and a kitchenette.
Tressa Cleves occupied one bedroom; her husband
another; Recklow the third.
And in this tiny apartment, hidden away among a
group of old buildings, the very existence of which
was unknown to the millions who swarmed the
252 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
streets of the greatest city in the world, here in
Westover Court, a dozen paces from the roar of
Broadway, was now living a young girl upon whose
psychic power the only hope of the world now
The afternoon had turned grey and bitter; ragged
flakes still fell; a pallid twilight possessed the snowy
city, through which lighted trains and taxis moved
in the foggy gloom.
By three o'clock in the afternoon all shops were
illuminated; the south windows of the Hotel Astor
across the street spread a sickly light over the old
buildings of Westover Court as John Recklow en-
tered the tiled hallway, took the stairs to the left,
and went directly to his apartment.
He unlocked the door and let himself in and stood
a moment in the entry shaking the snow from his
hat and overcoat.
The sitting-room lamp was unlighted but he could
see a fire in the grate, and Tressa Cleves seated near,
her eyes fixed on the glowing coals.
He bade her good evening in a low voice; she
turned her charming head and nodded, and he drew
a chair to the fender and stretched out his wet shoes
to the warmth.
"Is Victor still out?" he inquired.
She said that her husband had not yet returned.
Her eyes were on the fire, Recklow's rested on her
IN THE FIRELIGHT 253
"Benton got his man in Chicago," he said. "It
was not Togrul Kahn."
"Who was it?"
"Only a Swami fakir who'd been preaching sedi-
tion to a little group of greasy Bengalese from
Seattle. . . . I've heard from Selden, too."
She nodded listlessly and lifted her eyes.
"Neither Sanang nor Togrul have appeared in
Boston," he said. "I think they're here in New
The girl said nothing.
After a silence :
"Are you worried about your husband?" he asked
"I am always uneasy when he is absent," she
"Of course. . . . But I don't suppose he knows
"I suppose not."
Recklow leaned over, took a coal in the tongs and
lighted a cigar. Leaning back in his armchair, he
said in a musing voice :
"No, I suppose your husband does not realise
that you are so deeply concerned over his welfare."
The girl remained silent.
"I suppose," said Recklow softly, "he doesn't
dream you are in love with him."
Tressa Cleves did not stir a muscle. After a long
silence she said in her even voice:
"Do you think I am in love with my husband, Mr.
254 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"I think you fell in love with him the first evening
you met him."
Neither of them spoke again for some minutes.
Recklow's cigar went wrong; he rose and found
another and returned to the fire, but did not light it.
"It's a rotten day, isn't it?" he said with a
shiver, and dumped a scuttle of coal on the fire.
They watched the blue flames playing over the
Tressa said: "I could no more help falling in
love with him than I could stop my heart beating.
. . . But I did not dream that anybody knew."
"Don't you think he ought to know?"
"Why? He is not in love with me."
"Are you sure, Mrs. Cleves?"
"Yes. He is wonderfully sweet and kind. But
he could not fall in love with a girl who has been
what I have been."
Recklow smiled. "What have you bees, Tressa
"A temple-girl at Yian?"
"And at the Lake of the Ghosts," she said in a
"What of it?"
"I can not tell you, Mr. Recklow. . . . Only that
I lost my soul in the Yezidee Temple "
"That is untrue !"
"I wish it were untrue. . . . My husband tells me
that nothing can really harm the soul. I try to be-
IN THE FIRELIGHT 255
fieve him. . . . But Erlik lives. And when my soul
at last shall escape my body, it shall not escape the
Slayer of Souls."
"That is monstrously untrue "
"No. I tell you that Prince Sanang slew my soul.
And my soul's ghost belongs to Erlik. How can
any man fall in love with such a girl?"
"Why do you say that Sanang slew your soul?"
asked Recklow, peering at her averted face through
the reddening firelight.
She lay still in her chair for a moment, then turned
suddenly on him :
"He did slay it! He came to the Lake of the
Ghosts as my lover; he meant to have done it there;
but I would not have him would not listen, nor
suffer his touch ! I mocked at him and his passion.
I laughed at his Tchortchas. They were afraid of
She half rose from her chair, grasped the arms,
then seated herself again, her eyes ablaze with the
memory of wrongs.
"How dare I show my dear lord that I am in love
with him when Sanang's soul caught my soul out of
my body one day surprised my soul while my body
lay asleep in the Yezidee Temple! and bore it
in his arms to the very gates of hell!"
"Good God," whispered Recklow, "what do you
mean? Such things can't happen."
"Why not? They do happen. I was caught un-
awares. ... It was one golden afternoon, and
Yulan and Sansa and I were eating oranges by the
256 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
fountain in the inner shrine. And I lay down by the
pool and made the effort you understand?"
"Very well. My soul left my body asleep and I
went out over the tops of the flowers idly, without
aim or intent as the winds blow in summer. ... It
was in the Wood of the White Moth that I saw
Sanang's soul flash downward like a streak of fire
and wrap my soul in flame! . . . And, in a flash,
we were at the gates of hell before I could free my-
self from his embrace. . . . Then, by the Temple
pool, among the oranges, I cried out asleep; and my
terrified body sat up sobbing and trembling in
Yulun's arms. But the Slayer of Souls had slain
mine in the Wood of the White Moth slain it as
he caught me in his flaming arms. . . . And now you
know why such a woman as I dare not bend to kiss
the dust from my dear Lord's feet Aie-a ! Aie-a I
I who have lost my girl's soul to him who slew it in
the Wood of the White Moth!"
She sat rocking in her chair in the red firelight,
her hands framing her lovely face, her eyes staring
straight ahead as though they saw opening before
them through the sombre shadows of that room all
the dread magic of the East where the dancing flame
of Sanang's blazing soul lighted their path to hell
through the enchanted forest.
Recklow had grown pale, but his voice was steady.
"I see no reason," he said, "why your husband
should not love you."
IN THE FIRELIGHT 257
"I tell you my girl's soul belonged to Sanang
was part of his, for an instant."
"It is burned pure of dross."
"It is burned."
Recklow remained silent. Tressa lay deep in her
armchair, twisting her white fingers.
"What makes him so late?" she said ... "I sent
my soul out twice to look for him, and could not find
"Send it again," said Recklow, fearfully.
For ten minutes the girl lay as though asleep,
then her eyes unclosed and she said drowsily: "I can
not find him."
"Did did you learn anything while while you
were away?" asked Recklow cautiously.
"Nothing. There is a thick darkness out there
I mean a darkness gathering over the whole land.
It is like a black fog. When the damned pray to
Erlik there is a darkness that gathers like a brown
Her voice ceased; her hands tightened on the arms
of her chair.
"That is what Sanang is doing I" she said in a
"What?" demanded Recklow.
"Praying! That is what he is doing! A million
perverted minds which he has seized and obsessed
are being concentrated on blasphemous prayers to
Erlik! Sanang is directing them. Do you under-
stand the terrible power of a million minds all
willing, in unison, the destruction of good and the
258 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
triumph of evil? A million human minds! More!
For that is what he is doing. That is the thick dark-
ness that is gathering over the entire Western world.
It is the terrific materialisation of evil power from
evil minds, all focussed upon the single thought that
evil must triumph and good die !"
She sat, gripping the arms of her chair, pale, rigid,
terribly alert, dreadfully enlightened, now, concern-
ing the awful and new menace threatening the sanity
She said in her steady, emotionless voice : "When
the Yezidee Sorcerers desire to overwhelm a nomad
people some yort perhaps that has resisted the
Sheiks of the Eight Towers, then the Slayer of Souls
rides with his Black Banners to the Namaz-Ga or
Place of Prayer.
"Two marble bridges lead to it. There are four-
teen hundred mosques there. Then come the Eight,
each with his shroud, chanting the prayers for those
dead in hell. And there the Yezidees pray blas-
phemously, all their minds in ferocious unison. . . .
And I have seen a little yort full of Broad Faces with
their slanting eyes and sparse beards, sicken and die,
and turn black in the sun as though the plague had
breathed on them. And I have seen the Long Noses
and bushy beards of walled towns wither and perish
in the blast and blight from the Namaz-Ga where
the Slayer of Souls sat his saddle and prayed to
Erlik, and half a million Yezidees prayed in blas-
Recklow's head rested on his left hand. The
IN THE FIRELIGHT 259
other, unconsciously, had crept toward his pistol
the weapon which had become so useless in this
awful struggle between this girl and the loosened
forces of hell.
"Is that what you think Sanang is about?" he
"Yes. I know it. He has seized the minds of a
million men in America. Every anarchist is to-day
concentrating in one evil and supreme mental effort,
under Sanang's direction, to will the triumph of evil
and the doom of civilisation. ... I wish my hus-
band would come home."
She turned her pallid face in the firelight: "If
Sanang has appointed a Place of Prayer," she said,
"he himself will pray on that spot. That will be the
Namaz-Ga for the last two Yezidee Sorcerers still
alive in the Western World."
"That's what I wished to ask you," said Recklow
softly. "Will you try once more, Tressa?"
"Yes. I will send out my soul again to look for
She lay back in her armchair and closed her eyes.
"Only," she added, as though to herself, "I wish
my dear lord were safe in this room beside me. . . .
May God's warriors be his escort. And surely they
are well armed, and can prevail over demons. Aie-a !
I wish my lord would come home out of the dark-
ness. ... Mr. Recklow?"
"I thought I heard him on the stairs."
260 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"Aie-a!" she sighed and closed her eyes again.
She lay like one dead. There was no sound in
the room save the soft purr of the fire.
Suddenly from the sleeping girl a frightened voice
burst : "Yulun ! Yulun ! Where is that yellow maid
of the Baroulass? . . . What is she doing? That
sleek young thing belongs to Togrul Kahn? Yulun !
I am afraid of her! Tell Sansa to watch that she
does not stir from the Lake of the Ghosts! . . .
Warn that young Baroulass Sorceress that if she
stirs I slay her. And know how to do it in spite of
Sanang and all the prayers from the Namaz-Gal
Yulun! Sansa! Watch her, follow her, hearts of
flame! My soul be ransom for yours! Tokhta!"
The girl's eyes unclosed. Presently she stirred
slightly, passed one hand across her forehead, turned
her head toward Recklow.
"I could not discover the Namaz-Ga," she said
wearily. "I wish my husband would return."
THE PLACE OF PRAYER
HER husband called her on the telephone a
few minutes later:
"Fifty-three, Six-twenty-six speaking!
Who is this?"
"V-sixty-nine," replied his young wife happily.
"Are you all right?"
"Yes. IsM.H. 2479 there?"
"He is here."
"Very well. An hour ago I saw Togrul Khan in
a limousine and chased him in a taxi. His car got
away in the fog but it was possible to make out the
number. An empty Cadillac limousine bearing that
number is now waiting outside the 44th Street en-
trance to the Hotel Astor. The doorman will hold
it until I finish telephoning. Tell M. H. 2479 to
send men to cover this matter "
"Be careful! Yes, what is it?"
"I beg you not to stir in this affair until I can
join you "
"Hurry then. It's just across the street from
Westover Court " His voice ceased ; she heard
another voice, faintly, and an exclamation from her
262 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
husband; then his hurried voice over the wire: "The
doorman just sent word to hurry. The car number
is N. Y. 0/5 F 0379! I've got to run ! Good-b "
He left the booth at the end of Peacock Alley, ran
down the marble steps to the left and out to the
snowy sidewalk, passing on his way a young girl
swathed to the eyes in chinchilla who was hurrying
into the hotel. As he came to where the limousine
was standing, he saw that it was still empty although
the door stood open and the engine was running.
Around the chauffeur stood the gold laced doorman,
the gorgeously uniformed carriage porter and a
"Hey!" said the latter when he saw Cleves,
"what's the matter here? What are you holding up
this car for?"
Cleves beckoned him, whispered, then turned to
"Why did you send for me? Was the chauffeur
trying to pull out?"
"Yes, sir. A lady come hurrying out an' she
jumps in, and the shawfur he starts her hum-
"A lady! Where did she go?"
"It was that young lady in chinchilla fur. The
one you just met when you run out. Yessir ! Why,
as soon as I held up the car and called this here cop,
she opens the door and out she jumps and beats it
into the hotel again "
"Hold that car, Officer!" interrupted Cleves.
THE PLACE OF PRAYER 263
"Keep it standing here and arrest anybody who gets
into it! I'll be back again "
He turned and hurried into the hotel, traversed
Peacock Alley scanning every woman he passed,
searching for a slim shape swathed in chinchilla.
There were no chinchilla wraps in Peacock Alley;
none in the dining-room where people already were
beginning to gather and the orchestra was now play-
ing; no young girl in chinchilla in the waiting room,
or in the north dining-room.
Then, suddenly, far across the crowded lobby, he
saw a slender, bare-headed girl in a chinchilla cloak
turn hurriedly away from the room-clerk's desk,
holding a key in her white gloved hand.
Before he could take two steps in her direction
she had disappeared in the crowd.
He made his way through the packed lobby as best
he could amid throngs of people dressed for dinner,
theatre, or other gaiety awaiting them somewhere
out there in the light-smeared winter fog; but when
he arrived at the room clerk's desk he looked for a
chinchilla wrap in vain.
Then he leaned over the desk and said to the clerk
in a low voice: "I am a Federal agent from the
Department of Justice. Here are my credentials.
Now, who was that young woman in chinchilla furs
to whom you gave her door key a moment ago?"
The clerk leaned over his counter and, dropping
his voice, answered that the lady in question had ar-
rived only that morning from San Francisco; had
registered as Madame Aoula Baroulass; and had
264 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
been given a suite on the fourth floor numbered from
408 to 414.
"Do you mean to arrest her?" added the clerk in
a weird whisper.
"I don't know. Possibly. Have you the master-
The clerk handed it to him without a word; and
Cleves hurried to the elevator.
On the fourth floor the matron on duty halted
him, but when he murmured an explanation she
nodded and laid a finger on her lips.
"Madame has gone to her apartment," she whis-
"Has she a servant? Or friends with her?"
"No, sir. ... I did see her speak to two foreign
looking gentlemen in the elevator when she arrived
Cleves nodded; the matron pointed out the direc-
tion in silence, and he went rapidly down the car-
peted corridor, until he came to a door num-
For a second only he hesitated, then swiftly fitted
the master-key and opened the door.
The room a bedroom was brightly lighted ; but
there was nobody there. The other rooms dress-
ing closet, bath-room and parlour, all were brilliantly
lighted by ceiling fixtures and wall brackets ; but there
was not a person to be seen in any of the rooms
nor, save for the illumination, was there any visible
sign that anybody inhabited the apartment.
Swiftly he searched the apartment from end to
THE PLACE OF PRAYER 265
end. There was no baggage to be seen, no gar-
ments, no toilet articles, no flowers in the vases, no
magazines or books, not one article of feminine ap-
parel or of personal bric-a-brac visible in the entire
Nor had the bed even been turned down nor any
preparation for the night's comfort been attempted.
And, except for the blazing lights, it was as though
the apartment had not been entered by anybody for a
All the windows were closed, all shades lowered
and curtains drawn. The air, though apparently
pure enough, had that vague flatness which one asso-
ciates with an unused guest-chamber when opened
for an airing.
Now, deliberately, Cleves began a more thorough
search of the apartment, looking behind curtains,
under beds, into clothes presses, behind sofas.
Then he searched the bureau drawers, dressers,
desks for any sign or clew of the girl in the chin-
chillas. There was no dust anywhere, the hotel
management evidently was particular but there was
not even a pin to be found.
Presently he went out into the corridor and looked
again at the number on the door. He had made no
Then he turned and sped down the long corridor
to where the matron was standing beside her desk
preparing to go off duty as soon as the other matron
arrived to relieve her.
To his impatient question she replied positively
266 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
that she had seen the girl in chinchillas unlock 408
and enter the apartment less than five minutes be-
fore he had arrived in pursuit.
"And I saw her lights go on as soon as she went
in," added the matron, pointing to the distant illu-
"Then she went out through into the next apart-
ment," insisted Cleves.
"The fire-tower is on one side of her; the scullery
closet on the other," said the matron. "She could
not have left that apartment without coming out into
the corridor. And if she had come out I should
have seen her."
"I tell you she isn't in those rooms!" protested
"She must be there, sir. I saw her go in a few
seconds before you came up."
At that moment the other matron arrived. There
was no use arguing. He left the explanation of the
situation to the woman who was going off duty, and,
hastening his steps, he returned to apartment 408.
The door, which he had left open, had swung
shut. Again he fitted the master-key, entered,
paused on the threshold, looked around nervously,
his nostrils suddenly filled with a puff of perfume.
And there on the table by the bed he saw a glass
bowl filled with a mass of Chinese orchids great
odorous clusters of orange and snow-white bloom
that saturated all the room with their freshening
So astounded was he that he stood stock still, one
THE PLACE OF PRAYER 267
hand still on the door-knob; then in a trice he had
closed and locked the door from inside.
Somebody was in that apartment. There could
be no doubt about it. He dropped his right hand
into his overcoat pocket and took hold of his auto-
For ten minutes he stood so, listening, peering
about the room from bed to curtains, and out into
the parlour. There was not a sound in the place.
Now, grasping his pistol but not drawing it, he
began another stealthy tour of the apartment, ex-
ploring every nook and cranny. And, at the end,
had discovered nothing new.
When at length he realised that, as far as he
could discover, there was not a living thing in the
place excepting himself, a very faint chill grew along
his neck and shoulders, and he caught his breath
He had come back to the bedroom, now. The
perfume of #ie orchids saturated the still air.
And, as he stood staring at them, all of a sudden
he saw, where their twisted stalks rested in the
transparent bowl of water, something moving
something brilliant as a live ember gliding out from
among the mass of submerged stems a living fish
glowing in scarlet hues and winnowing the water with
grotesquely trailing fins as delicate as filaments of
To and fro swam the fish among the maze of
orchid stalks. Even its eyes were hot and red as
268 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
molten rubies; and as its crimson gills swelled and
relaxed and swelled, tints of cherry-fire waxed and
waned over its fat and glowing body.
And vaguely, now, in the perfume saturated air,
Cleves seemed to sense a subtle taint of evil, some-
thing sinister in the intense stillness of the place in
the jewelled fish gliding so silently in and out among
the pallid convolutions of the drowned stems.
As he stood staring at the fish, the drugged odour
of the orchids heavy in his throat and lungs, some-
thing stirred very lightly in the room.
Chills crawling over every limb, he looked around
across his shoulder.
There was a figure seated cross-legged in the
middle of the bed!
Then, in the perfumed silence, the girl laughed.
For a full minute neither of them moved. No
sound had echoed her low laughter save the dead-
ened pulsations of his own heart. But now there
grew a faint ripple of water in the bowl where the
scarlet fish, suddenly restless, was swimming hither
and thither as though pursued by an invisible hand.
With the slight noise of splashing water in his
ears, Cleves stood staring at the figure on the bed.
Under her chinchilla cloak the girl seemed to be all a
pale golden tint hair, skin, eyes. The scant shred
of an evening gown she wore, the jewels at her
throat and breast, all were yellow and amber and
And now, looking him in the eyes, she leisurely
disengaged the robe of silver fur from her naked
THE PLACE OF PRAYER 269
shoulders and let it fall around her on the bed. For
a second the lithe, willowy golden thing gathered
there as gracefully as a coiled snake filled him with
swift loathing. Then, almost instantly, the beauty of
the lissome creature fascinated him.
She leaned forward and set her elbows on her
two knees, and rested her face between her hands
like a gold rose-bud between two ivory petals, he
thought, dismayed by this young thing's beauty,
shaken by the dull confusion of his own heart bat-
tering his breast like the blows of a rising tide.
"What do you wish?" she inquired in her soft
young voice. "Why have you come secretly into my
rooms to search and clasping in your hand a loaded
pistol deep within your pocket?"
"Why have you hidden yourself until now?" he
retorted in a dull and laboured voice.
"I have been here."
"Here! . . . Looking at you. . . . And watch-
ing my scarlet fish. His name is Dzelim. He is near-
ly a thousand years old and as wise as a magician.
Look upon him, my lord! See how rapidly he
darts around his tiny crystal world! like a comet
through outer star-dust, running the eternal race with
Time. . .' . And yonder is a chair. Will my lord
be seated at his new servant's feet?"
A strange, physical weariness seemed to weight
his limbs and shoulders. He seated himself near the
bed, never taking his heavy gaze from the smiling,
270 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
golden thing which squatted there watching him so
"Whose limousine was that which you entered and
then left so abruptly?" he asked.
"What was the Yezidee Togrul Kahn doing in
"Did you see anybody in my car?" she asked,
veiling her eyes a little with their tawny lashes.
"I saw a man with a thick beard dyed red with
henna, and the bony face and slant eyes of Togrul
"May my soul be ransom for yours, my lord, but
you lie!" she said softly. Her lips parted in a
smile ; but her half-veiled eyes were brilliant as two
"Is that your answer?"
She lifted one hand and with her forefinger made
signs from right to left and then downward as
though writing in Turkish and in Chinese characters.
"It is written," she said in a low voice, "that we
belong to God and we return to him. Look out
what you are about, my lord!"
He drew his pistol from his overcoat and, hold-
ing it, rested his hand on his knee.
"Now," he said hoarsely, "while we await the
coming of Togrul Kahn, you shall remain exactly
where you are, and you shall tell me exactly who
you are in order that I may decide whether to arrest
you as an alien enemy inciting my countrymen to
THE PLACE OF PRAYER 271
murder, or to let you go as a foreigner who is able
to prove her honesty and innocence."
The girl laughed:
"Be careful," she said. "My danger lies in your
youth and mine somewhere between your lips and
mine lies my only danger from you, my lord."
A dull flush mounted to his temples and burned
"I am the golden comrade to Heavenly-Azure,"
she said, still smiling. "I am the Third Immaum in
the necklace Keuke wears where Yulun hangs as a
rose-pearl, and Sansa as a pearl on fire.
"Look upon me, my lordl"
There was a golden light in his eyes which seemed
to stiffen the muscles and confuse his vision. He
heard her voice again as though very far away :
"It is written that we shall love, my lord thou
and I this night this night. Listen attentively. I
am thy slave. My lips shall touch thy feet. Look
upon me, my lord!"
There was a dazzling blindness in his eyes and in
his brain. He swayed a little still striving to fix her
with his failing gaze. t His pistol hand slipped side-
ways from his knee, fell limply, and the weapon
dropped to the thick carpet. He could still see the
glimmering golden shape of her, still hear her dis-
"It is written that we belong to God . . .
Tokhta! . . ."
Over his knees was settling a snow-white sheet;
on it, in his lap, lay a naked knife. There was not
272 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
a sound in the room save the rushing and splashing
of the scarlet fish in its crystal bowl.
Bending nearer, the girl fixed her yellow eyes
on the man who looked back at her with dying
gaze, sitting upright and knee deep in his shroud.
Then, noiselessly she uncoiled her supple golden
body, extending her right arm toward the knife.
"Throw back thy head, my lord, and stretch thy
throat to the knife's sweet edge," she whispered
caressingly. "No! do not close your eyes. Look
upon me. Look into my eyes. I am Aoula, temple
girl of the Baroulass! I am mistress to the Slayer
of Souls! I am a golden plaything to Sanang
Noiane, Prince of the Yezidees. Look upon me at-
tentively, my lord!"
Her smooth little hand closed on the hilt; the
scarlet fish splashed furiously in the bowl, dislodg-
ing a blossom or two which fell to the carpet and
slowly faded into mist.
Now she grasped the knife, and she slipped from
the bed to the floor and stood before the dazed man.
"This is the Namaz-Ga," she said in her silky
voice. "Behold, this is the appointed Place of
Prayer. Gaze around you, my lord. These are the
shadows of mighty men who come here to see you
die in the Place of Prayer."
Cleves's head had fallen back, but his eyes were
open. The Baroulass girl took his head in both
hands and turned it hither and thither. And his
glazing eyes seemed to sweep a throng of shadowy
THE PLACE OF PRAYER 273
white-robed men crowding the room. And he saw
the bloodless, symmetrical visage of Sanang among
them, and the great red beard of Togrul; and his
stiffening lips parted in an uttered cry, and sagged
open, flaccid and soundless.
The Baroulass sorceress lifted the shroud
from his knees and spread it on the carpet, moving
with leisurely grace about her business and softly
intoning the Prayers for the Dead.
Then, having made her arrangements, she took
her knife into her right hand again and came back
to the half-conscious man, and stood close in front
of him, bending near and looking curiously into his
"Ayah!" she said smilingly. "This is the Place
of Prayer. And you shall add your prayer to ours
before I use my knife. So ! I give you back your
power of speech. Pronounce the name of Erlik!"
Very slowly his dry lips moved and his dry tongue
trembled. The word they formed was,
Instantly the girl's yellow eyes grew incandescent
and her lovely mouth became distorted. With her
left hand she caught his chin, forced his head back,
exposing his throat, and using all her strength drew
the knife's edge across it.
But it was only her clenched fingers that swept
the taut throat clenched and empty fingers in
which the knife had vanished.
And when the Baroulass girl saw that her clenched
274 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
hand was empty, felt her own pointed nails cutting
into the tender flesh of her own palm, she stared at
her blood-stained fingers in sudden terror stared,
spread them, shrieked where she stood, and writhed
there trembling and screaming as though gripped in
an invisible trap.
But she fell silent when the door of the room
opened noiselessly behind her ; and it was as though
she dared not turn her head to face the end of all
things which had entered the room and was drawing
nearer in utter silence.
Suddenly she saw its shadow on the wall; and her
voice burst from her lips in a last shuddering scream.
Then the end came slowly, without a sound, and
she sank at the knees, gently, to a kneeling posture,
then backward, extending her supple golden shape
across the shroud; and lay there limp as a dead
Tressa went to the bowl of water and drew
from it every blossom. The scarlet fish was now
thrashing the water to an iridescent spume; and
Tressa plunged in her hands and seized it and flung
it out squirming and wheezing crimson foam on
the shroud beside the golden girl of the Baroulass.
Then, very slowly, she drew the shroud over the dy-
ing things ; stepped back to the chair where her hus-
band lay unconscious; knelt down beside him and
took his head on her shoulder, gazing, all the while,
at the outline of the dead girl under the snowy
THE PLACE OF PRAYER 275
After a long while Cleves stirred and opened his
eyes. Presently he turned his head sideways on her
"Tressa," he whispered.
"Hush," she whispered, "all is well now." But
she did not move her eyes from the shroud, which
now outlined the still shapes of two human figures.
"John Recklow !" she called in a low voice.
Recklow entered noiselessly with drawn pistol.
She motioned to him ; he bent and lifted the edge of
the shroud, cautiously. A bushy red beard pro-
"Togrul!" he exclaimed. . . . "But who is this
young creature lying dead beside him?"
Then Tressa caught the collar of her tunic in her
left hand and flung back her lovely face looking up-
ward out of eyes like sapphires wet with rain :
"In the name of the one and only God," she
sobbed "if there be no resurrection for dead souls,
then I have slain this night in vain !
"For what does it profit a girl if her soul be lost
to a lover and her body be saved for her husband?"
She rose from her knees, the tears still falling,
and went and looked down at the outlined shapes
beneath the shroud.
Recklow had gone to the telephone to summon his
own men and an ambulance. Now, turning toward
Tressa from his chair:
"God knows what we'd do without you, Mrs.
Cleves. I believe this accounts for all the Yezidees
276 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"Excepting Prince Sanang," she said drearily.
Then she went slowly to where her husband lay in
his armchair, and sank down on the floor, and laid
her cheek across his feet.
THE SLAYER OF SOULS
IN that great blizzard which, on the 4th of Feb-
ruary, struck the eastern coast of the United
States from Georgia to Maine, John Recklow
and his men hunted Sanang, the last of the Yezidees.
And Sanang clung like a demon to the country
which he had doomed to destruction, imbedding each
claw again as it was torn loose, battling for the su-
premacy of evil with all his dreadful psychic power,
striving still to seize, cripple, and slay the bodies
and souls of a hundred million Americans.
Again he scattered the uncounted myriads of
germs of the Black Plague which he and his Yezidees
had brought out of Mongolia a year before; and
once more the plague swept over the country, and
thousands on thousands died.
But now the National, State and City governments
were fighting, with physicians, nurses, and police,
this gruesome epidemic which had come into the
world from they knew not where. And National,
State and City governments, aroused at last, were
fighting the more terrible plague of anarchy.
Nation-wide raids were made from the Atlantic
to the Pacific, and from the Gulf to the Lakes.
278 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
Thousands of terrorists of all shades and stripes
whose minds had been seized and poisoned by the
Yezidees were being arrested. Deportations had
begun; government agents were everywhere swarm-
ing to clean out the foulness that had struck deeper
into the body of the Republic than any one had sup-
And it seemed, at last, as though the Red Plague,
too, was about to be stamped out along with the
Black Death called Influenza.
But only a small group of Secret Service men
knew that a resurgence of these horrors was inevit-
able unless Sanang, the Slayer of Souls, was de-
stroyed. And they knew, too, that only one person
in America could hope to destroy Sanang, the last
of the Yezidees, and that was Tressa Cleves.
Only by the sudden onset of the plague in various
cities of the land had Recklow any clew concerning
the whereabouts of Sanang.
In Boston, then Washington, then Kansas City,
and then New York the epidemic suddenly blazed
up. And in these places of death the Secret Service
men always found a clew, and there they hunted
Sanang, the Yezidee, to kill him without mercy
where they might find him.
But they never found Sanang NoTane; only the
ghastly marks of his poisoned claws on the body of
the sickened nation only minds diseased by the Red
Plague and bodies dying of the Black Death civil
and social centres disorganized, disrupted, depraved,
THE SLAYER OF SOULS 279
When the blizzard burst upon New York, strug-
gling in the throes of the plague, and paralysed the
metropolis for a week, John Recklow sent out a
special alarm, and New York swarmed with Secret
Service men searching the snow-buried city for a
graceful, slender, dark young man whose eyes slanted
a trifle in his amber-tinted face; who dressed fash-
ionably, lived fastidiously, and spoke English per-
fectly in a delightfully modulated voice.
And to New York, thrice stricken by anarchy, by
plague, and now by God, hurried, from all parts
of the nation, thousands of secret agents who had
been hunting Sanang in distant cities or who had
been raiding the traitorous and secret gatherings of
his mental dupes.
Agent ZB-3O3, who was volunteer agent James
Benton, came from Boston with his new bride who
had just arrived by way of England a young girl
named Yulun who landed swathed in sables, and
stretched out both lovely little hands to Benton the
instant she caught sight of him on the pier. Where-
upon he took the slim figure in furs into his arms,
which was interesting because they had never before
met in the flesh.
So, their honeymoon scarce begun, Benton and
Yulun came from Boston in answer to Recklow's
And all the way across from San Francisco came
volunteer agent XLY-37I, otherwise Alek Selden,
bringing with him a girl named Sansa whom he had
gone to the coast to meet, and whom he had imrne-
280 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
diately married after she had landed from the Jap-
anese steamer Nan-y&mg Maru. Which, also, was
remarkable, because, although they recognised each
other instantly, and their hands and lips clung as
they met, neither had ever before beheld the living
body of tBe other.
The third man who came to New York at Reek-
low's summons was volunteer agent 53-6-26, other-
wise Victor Cleyes.
His young wife, suffering from nervous shock
after the deaths of Togrul Khan and of the Barou-
lass girl, Aoula, had been convalescing in a private
sanitarium in Westchester.
Until the summons came to her husband from
Recklow, she had seen him only for a few moments
every day. But the call to duty seemed to have ef-
fected a miraculous cure in the slender, blue-eyed
girl who had lain all day long, day after day, in her
still, sunny room scarcely unclosing her eyes at all
save only when her husband was permitted to enter
for the few minutes allowed them every day.
The physician had just left, after admitting that
Mrs. Cleves seemed to be well enough to travel if
she insisted; and she and her maid had already begun
to pack when her husband came into her room.
She looked around over her shoulder, then rose
from her knees, flung an armful of clothing into the
trunk before which she had been kneeling, and came
across the room to him. Then she dismissed her
maid from the room. And when the girl had gone :
THE SLAYER OF SOULS 281
"I am well, Victor," she said in a low voice. "Why
are you troubled?"
"I can't bear to have you drawn into this horrible
affair once more."
"Who else is there to discover and overcome
Sanang?" she asked calmly.
He remained silent.
So, for a few moments they stood confronting
each other there in the still, sunny chamber hus-
band and wife who had never even exchanged the
first kiss two young creatures more vitally and in-
timately bound together than any two on earth yet
utterly separated body and soul from each other
two solitary spirits which had never merged; two
bodies virginal and inviolate.
Tressa spoke first: "I must go. That was our
The word made him wince as though it had been a
sudden blow. Then his face flushed red.
"Bargain or no bargain," he said, "I don't want
you to go because I'm afraid you can not endure
another shock like the last one. . . . And every time
you have thrown your own mind and body between
this Nation and destruction you have nearly died
"And if I die?" she said in a low voice.
What answer she awaited perhaps hoped for
was not the one he made. He said : "If you die in
what you believe to be your line of duty, then it will
be I who have killed you."
282 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"That would not be true. It is you who have
"I have not. I have done nothing except to lead
you Into danger of death since I first met you. If
you mean spiritually, that also is untrue. You have
saved yourself if that indeed were necessary. You
have redeemed yourself if it is true you needed re-
demption which I never believed "
"Oh," she sighed swiftly, "Sanang surprised my
soul when it was free of my body followed my soul
into the Wood of the White Moth caught it there
all alone and slew it!"
His lips and throat had gone dry as he watched
the pallid terror grow in her face.
Presently he recovered his voice: "You call that
Yezidee the Slayer of Souls," he said, "but I tell
you there is no such creature, no such power !
"I suppose I I know what you mean having
seen what we call souls dissociated from their phys-
ical bodies but that this Yezidee could do you any
spiritual damage I do not for one instant believe.
The idea is monstrous, I tell you "
"I I fought him soul battling against
soul " she stammered, breathing faster and ir-
regularly. "I struggled with Sanang there in the
Wood of the White Moth. I called on God ! I called
on my two great dogs, Bars and Alaga ! I recited the
Fatha with all my strength fighting convulsively
whenever his soul seized mine; I cried out the name
of Khidr, begging for wisdom ! I called on the Ten
Imaums, on Ali the Lion, on the Blessed Compan-
THE SLAYER OF SOULS 283
ions. Then I tore my spirit out of the grasp of his
soul but there was no escape"! no escape," she
wailed. "For on every side I saw the cloud-topped
rampart of Gog and Magog, and the woods rang
with Erlik's laughter the dissonant mirth of
She began to shudder and sway a little, then with
an effort she controlled herself in a measure.
"There never has been," she began again with lips
that quivered in spite of her "there never has been
one moment in our married lives when my soul dared
forget the Wood of the White Moth dared seek
yours. . . . God lives. But so does Erlik. There
are angels; but there are as many demons. . . . My
soul is ashamed. . . . And very lonely . . . very
lonely . . . but no fit companion for yours "
Her hands dropped listlessly beside her and her
"So you believe that Yezidee devil caught your
soul when it was wandering somewhere out of your
body, and destroyed it," he said.
She did not answer, did not even lift her eyes until
he had stepped close to her closer than he had ever
come. Then she looked up at him, but closed her
eyes as he swept her into his arms and crushed her
face and body against his own.
Now her red lips were on his ; now her face and
heart and limbs and breast melted into his her
breath, her pulse, her strength flowed into his and
became part of their single being and single pulse
and breath. And she felt their two souls flame and
284 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
fuse together, and burn together in one heavenly
blaze felt the swift conflagration mount, over-
whelm, and sweep her clean of the last lingering
taint; felt her soul, unafraid, clasp her husband's
spirit in its white embrace clung to him, uplifted
out of hell, rising into the blinding light of Paradise.
Far far away she heard her own voice in singing
whispers heard her lips pronounce The Name
"Ata Ata ! Allahou "
Her blue eyes unclosed; through a mist, in which
she saw her husband's face, grew a vast metallic
clamour in her ears.
Her husband kissed her, long, silently; then, re-
taining her hand, he turned and lifted the receiver
from the clamouring telephone.
"Yes! Yes, this is 53-6-26. Yes, -69 is with
me. . . . When? . . . To-day? . . . Very well.
. . . Yes, we'll come at once. . . . Yes, we can get
a train in a few minutes. . . . All right. Good-bye."
He took his wife into his arms again.
"Dearest of all in the world," he said, "Sanang is
cornered in a row of houses near the East River, and
Recklow has flung a cordon around the entire block.
Good God ! I can't take you there !"
Then Tressa smiled, drew his head down, looked
into his face till the clear blue splendour of her gaze
stilled the tumult in his brain.
"I alone know how to deal with Prince Sanang,"
she said quietly. "And if John Recklow, or you, or
Mr. Benton or Mr. Selden should kill him with your
pistols, it would be only his body you slay, not the
THE SLAYER OF SOULS 285
evil thing that would escape you and return to Erlik."
"Must you do this thing, Tressa?"
"Yes, I must do it."
"But if our pistols cannot kill this sorcerer, how
are you going to deal with him?"
"I know how."
"Have you the strength?"
"Yes the bodily and the spiritual. Don't you
know that I am already part of you?"
"We shall be nearer still," he murmured.
She flushed but met his gaze.
"Yes. . . . We shall be but one being. . . . Ut-
terly. . . . For already our hearts and souls are
one. And we shall become of one mind and one
"I am no longer afraid of Sanang Noiane !"
"No longer afraid to slay him?" he asked quietly.
A blue light flashed in her eyes and her face grew
still and white and terrible.
"Death to the body? That is nothing, my lord!"
she said, in a hard, sweet voice. "It is written that
we belong to God and that we return to Him. All
living things must die, Heart of the World! It is
only the death of souls that matters. And it has
arrived at a time in the history of mankind, I think,
when the Slayer of Souls shall slay no more."
She looked at him, flushed, withdrew her hand and
went slowly across the room to the big bay window
where potted flowers were in bloom.
From a window-box she took a pinch of dry soil
and dropped it into the bosom of her gown.
286 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
Then, facing the East, with lowered arms and
palms turned outward:
"There is no god but God," she whispered "the
merciful, the long-suffering, the compassionate, the
"For it is written that when the heavens are rolled
together like a scroll, every soul shall know what
it hath wrought.
"And those souls that are dead in Jehannum shall
arise from the dead, and shall have their day in
court. Nor shall Erlik stay them till all has been
"And on that day the soul of a girl that hath been
put to death shall ask for what reason it was slain.
"Thus it has been written."
Then Tressa dropped to her Knees, touched the
carpet with her forehead, straightened her lithe body
and, looking over her shoulder, clapped her hands
Her maid opened the door. "Hasten with my
lord's luggage!" she cried happily; and, still kneel-
ing, lifted her head to her husband and laughed up
into his eyes.
"You should call the porter for we are nearly
ready. Shall we go to the station in a sleigh ? Oh,
She leaped to her feet, extended her hand and
"Horses for the lord of the Yiort!" she cried,
laughingly. "Kosh! Take me out into this new
white world that has been born to-day of the ten
THE SLAYER OF SOULS 287
purities and the ten thousand felicities ! It has been
made anew for you and me who also have been born
He scarcely knew this sparkling, laughing girl
with her quick grace and her thousand swift little
moods and gaieties.
Porters came to take his luggage from his own
room ; and then her trunk and bags were ready, and
were taken away.
The baggage sleigh drove off. Their own jing-
ling sleigh followed; and Tressa, buried in furs,
looked out upon a dazzling, unblemished world,
lying silvery white under a sky as azure as her eyes.
"Keuke Mongol Heavenly Azure," he whis-
pered close to her crimsoned cheek, "do you know
how I have loved you always always?"
"No, I did not know that," she said.
"Nor I, in the beginning. Yet it happened, also,
from the beginning when I first saw you."
"That is a delicious thing to be told. Within
me a most heavenly glow is spreading. . . . Un-
glove your hand."
She slipped the glove from her own white fingers
and felt for his under the furs.
"Aie," she sighed, "you are more beautiful than
Ali ; more wonderful than the Flaming Pearl. Out
of ice and fire a new world has been made for us."
"Heavenly Azure my darling!"
"Oh-h," she sighed, "your words are sweeter than
the breeze in Yian I I shall be a bride to you such
as there never has been since the days of the Blessed
288 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
Companions may their names be perfumed and
sweet-scented! . . . Shall I truly be one with you,
"Mind, soul, and body, one being, you and I, little
"Between your two hands you hold me like a
burning rose, my lord."
"Your sweetness and fire penetrate my soul."
"We shall burn together then till the sky-carpet
be rolled up. Kosh ! We shall be one, and on that
day I shall not be afraid."
The sleigh came to a clashing, jingling halt; the
train plowed into the depot buried in vast clouds
of snowy steam.
But when they had taken the places reserved for
them, and the train was moving swifter and more
swiftly toward New York, fear suddenly over-
whelmed Victor Cleves, and his face grew grey with
the menacing tumult of his thoughts.
The girl seemed to comprehend him, too, and her
own features became still and serious as she leaned
forward in her chair.
"It is in God's hands, Heart of the World," she
said in a low voice. "We are one, thou and I, or
nearly so. Nothing can harm my soul."
"No. ... But the danger to your life "
"I fear no Yezidee."
"The beast will surely try to kill you. And what
can I do? You say my pistol is useless."
"Yes. . . . But I want you near me."
"Do you imagine I'd leave you for a second?
THE SLAYER OF SOULS 289
Good God," he added in a strangled voice, "isn't
there any way I can kill this wild beast? With my
naked hands ?"
"You must leave him to me, Victor."
"And you believe you can slay him? Do you?"
She remained silent for a long while, bent for-
ward in her armchair, and her hands clasped tightly
on her knees.
"My husband," she said at last, "what your as-
tronomers have but just begun to suspect is true, and
has long, long been known to the Sheiks-el-Djebel.
"For, near to this world we live in, are other
worlds planets that do not reflect light. And there
is a dark world called Yrimid, close to the earth
a planet wrapped in darkness a black star. . . .
And upon it Erlik dwells. . . . And it is peopled
by demons. . . . And from it comes sickness and
She moistened her lips; sat for a while gazing
vaguely straight before her.
"From this black planet comes all evil upon
earth," she resumed in a hushed voice. "For it is
very near to the earth. It is not a hundred miles
away. All strange phenomena for which our scien-
tists can not account are due to this invisible planet,
all new and sudden pestilences; all convulsions of
nature; the newly noticed radio disturbances; the
new, so-called inter-planetary signals all all have
their hidden causes within that black and demon-
haunted planet long known to the Yezidees, and by
them called Yrimid, or Erlik's World.
290 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
"And it is to this black planet that I shall send
Sanang, Slayer of Souls. I shall tear him from this
earth, though he cling to it with every claw; and
I shall fling his soul into darkness out across the
gulf drive his soul forth hurl it toward Erlik
like a swift rocket charred and falling from the
sky into endless night.
"So shall I strive to deal with Prince Sanang, Sor-
cerer of Mount Alamout, the last of the Assassins,
Sheik-el-Djebel, and Slayer of Souls. . . . May
God remember him in hell."
Already their train was rolling into the great ter-
Recklow was awaiting them. He took Tressa's
hands in his and gazed earnestly into her face.
"Have you come to show us how to conclude this
murderous business?" he asked grimly.
"I shall try," she said calmly. "Where have you
"Could you and Victor come at once?"
"Yes." She turned and looked at her husband,
who had become quite pale.
Recklow saw the look they exchanged. There
could be no misunderstanding what had happened
to these two. Their tragedy had ended. They
were united at last. He understood it instantly,
realised how terrible was this new and tragic situ-
ation for them both.
Yet, h - knew also that the salvation of civilisa-
THE SLAYER OF SOULS 291
tion itself now depended upon this girl. She must
face Sanang. There was nothing else possible.
"The streets are choked with snow," he said,
"but I have a coupe and two strong horses waiting."
He nodded to one of his men standing near.
Cleves gave him the hand luggage and checks.
"All right," he said in a low voice to Recklow;
and passed one arm through Tressa's.
The coupe was waiting on Forty-second Street,
guarded by a policeman. When they had entered
and were seated, two mounted policemen rode ahead
of the lurching vehicle, picking a way amid the
monstrous snow-drifts, and headed for the East
"We've got him somewhere in a wretched row of
empty houses not far from East River Park. I'm
taking you there. I've drawn a cordon of my men
around the entire block. He can't get away. But
I dared take no chances with this Yezidee sorcerer
dared not let one of my men go in to look for him
go anywhere near him, until I could lay the
situation before you, Mrs. Cleves."
"Yes," she said calmly, "it was the only way, Mr.
Recklow. There would have been no use shooting
him no use taking him prisoner. A prisoner, he
remains as deadly as ever; dead, his mind still lives
and breeds evil. You are quite right; it is for me
to deal with Sanang."
Recklow shuddered in spite of himself. "Can
you tear his claws from the vitals of the world, and
292 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
free the sick brains of a million people from the
slavery of this monster's mind?"
The girl said seriously:
"Even Satan was stoned. It is so written. And
was cast out. And dwells forever and ever in Abad-
don. No star lights that Pit. None lights the
Black Planet, Yrimid. It is where evil dwells. And
there Sanang NoTane belongs."
And now, beyond the dirty edges of the snow-
smothered city, under an icy mist they caught sight
of the river where ships lay blockaded by frozen
Gulls circled over it; ghostly factory chimneys on
the further shore loomed up gigantic, ranged like
The coupe, jolting along behind the mounted po-
licemen, struggled up toward the sidewalk and
stopped. The two horses stood steaming, knee deep
in snow. Recklow sprang out; Tressa gave him one
hand and stepped lithely to the sidewalk. Then
Cleves got out and came and took hold of his
wife's arm again.
"Well," he said harshly to Recklow, "where is
this damned Yezidee hidden?"
Recklow pointed in silence, but he and Tressa
had already lifted their gaze to the stark, shabby row
of abandoned three-story houses where every dirty
blind was closed.
"They're to be demolished and model tenements
built," he said briefly.
THE SLAYER OF SOULS 293
A man muffled in a fur overcoat came up and took
Tressa's hand and kissed it.
She smiled palely at Benton, spoke of Yulun,
wished him happiness. While she was yet speaking
Selden approached and bent over her gloved hand.
She spoke to him very sweetly of Sansa, expressing
pleasure at the prospect of seeing her again in the
"The Seldens and ourselves have adjoining apart-
ments at the Ritz," said Benton. "We have re-
served a third suite for you and Victor."
She inclined her lovely head, gravely, then turned
to Recklow, saying that she was ready.
"It makes no difference which front door I un-
lock," he said. "All these tenements are connected
by human rat-holes and hidden runways leading from
one house to another. . . . How many men do you
"I want you four men, nobody else."
Recklow led the way up a snow-covered stoop,
drew a key from his pocket, fitted it, and pulled open
A musty chill struck their faces as they entered
the darkened and empty hallway. Involuntarily
every man drew his pistol.
"I must ask you to do exactly what I tell you to
do," she said calmly.
"Certainly," said Recklow, caressing his white
moustache and striving to pierce the gloom with his
Then Tressa took her husband's hand. "Come,"
294 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
she said. They mounted the stairway together ; and
the three others followed with pistols lifted.
There was a vague grey light on the second floor;
the broken rear shutters let it in.
As though she seemed to know her way, the girl
led them forward, opened a door in the wall, and
disclosed a bare, dusty room in the next house.
Through this she stepped; the others crept after
her with weapons ready. She opened a second door,
turned to the four men.
"Wait here for me. Come only when I call," she
"For God's sake take me with you," burst out
"In God's name stay where you are till you hear
me call your name !" she said almost breathlessly.
Then, suddenly she turned, swiftly retracing her
steps; and they saw her pass through the first door
and disappear into the first house they had entered.
A terrible silence fell among them. The sound of
her steps on the bare boards had died away. There
was not a sound in the chilly dusk.
Minute after minute dragged by. One by one
the men peered fearfully at Cleves. His visage
was ghastly and they could see his pistol-hand trem-
Twice Recklow looked at his wrist watch. The
third time he said, unsteadily: "She has been gone
three-quarters of an hour."
Then, far away, they heard a heavy tread on the
stairs. Nearer and nearer came the footsteps.
THE SLAYER OF SOULS 295
Every pistol was levelled at the first door as a man's
bulky form darkened it.
"It's one of my men," said Recklow in a voice
like a low groan. "Where on earth is Mrs. Cleves?"
"I came to tell you," said the agent, "Mrs. Cleves
came out of the first house nearly an hour ago. She
got into the coupe and told the driver to go to the
"What!" gasped Recklow.
"She's gone to the Ritz," repeated the agent. "No
one else has come out. And I began to worry
hearing nothing of you, Mr. Recklow. So I stepped
in to see "
"You say that Mrs. Cleves went out of fhe house
we entered, got into the coupe, and told the driver
to go to the Ritz?" demanded Cleves, astounded.
"Where is that coupe? Did it return?"
"It had not returned when I came in here."
"Go back and look for it. Look in the other
street," said Recklow sharply.
The agent hurried away over the creaking boards.
The four men gazed at one another.
"The thing to do is to obey her and stay where
we are," said Recklow grimly. "Who knows what
peril we may cause her if we move from "
His words froze on his lips as Tressa's voice rang
out from the darkness beyond the door they were
"Victor! I I need youl Come to me, my hus-
296 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
As Cleves sprang through the door into the dark-
ness beyond, Benton smashed a window sash with
all the force of his shoulder, and, reaching out
through the shattered glass, tore the rotting blinds
from their hinges, letting in a flood of sickly light.
Against the bare wall stood Tressa, both arms ex-
tended, her hands flat against the plaster, and each
hand transfixed and pinned to the wall by a knife.
A white sheet lay at her feet. On it rested a third
knife. And, bending on one knee to pick it up, they
caught a glimpse of a slender young man in fashion-
able afternoon attire, who, as they entered with the
crash of the shattered window in their ears, sprang
to his nimble feet and stood confronting them, knife
Instantly every man fired at him and the bullets
whipped the plaster to a smoke behind him, but the
slender, dark skinned young man stood motionless,
loofcmg at them out of brilliant eyes that slanted a
Again the racket of the fusillade swept him and
filled the room with plaster dust.
Cleves, frantic with horror, laid hold of the knives
that pinned his wife's hands to the wall, and dragged
But there was no blood, no wound to be seen on
her soft palms,. She took the murderous looking
blades from him, threw one terrible look at Sanang,
kicked the shroud across the floor toward him, and
flung both knives upon it.
The place was still dim with plaster dust and pistol
THE SLAYER OF SOULS 297
fumes as she stepped forward through the acrid mist,
motioning the four men aside.
"Sanang!" she cried in a clear voice, "may God
remember you in hell, for my feet have spurned your
shroud, and your knives, which could not scar my
palms, shall never pierce my heart I Look out for
yourself, Prince Sanang!"
"Tokhta !" he said, calmly. "My soul be ransom
"That is a lie! My soul is already ransomed!
My mind is the more powerful. It has already
halted yours. It is conquering yours. It is seizing
your mind and enslaving it. It is mastering your
will, Sanang! Your mind bends before mine. You
know it! You know it is bending. You feel it is
Sanang's eyes began to glitter but his pale brown
face had grown almost white.
"I slew you once in the Wood of the White
Moth," he said huskily. "There is no resurrection
from such a death, little Heavenly Azure. Look
upon me ! My soul and yours are one !"
"You are looking upon my soul," she said.
"A lie ! You are in your body !"
The girl laughed. "My body lies asleep in the
Ritz upon my husband's bed," she said. "My body
is his, my mind belongs to him, my soul is already one
with his. Do you not know it, dog of a Yezidee?
Look upon me, Sanang Noiane ! Look upon my un-
wounded hands ! My shroud lies at your feet. And
there lie the knives that could not pierce my heart I
298 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
I am thrice clean! Listen to my words, Sanang!
There is no other god but God!"
The young man's visage grew pasty and loose and
horrible; his lips became flaccid like dewlaps; but
out of these sagging folds of livid skin his voice
burst whistling, screaming, as though wrenched from
his very belly:
"May Erlik strangle you! May you rot where
you stand ! May your face become a writhing mass
of maggots and your body a corruption of living
"For what you are doing to me this day may
every demon in hell torment you !
"Have~a care what you are about!" he screeched.
"You are slaying my mind, you sorceress! You
have seized my mind and are crushing it! You are
putting out its light, you Yezidee witch! you are
quenching the last spark of reason in me "
His knife fell clattering to the floor. But he
stood stock still, his hands clutching his head stood
motionless, while scream on scream tore through the
loose and gaping lips, blowing them into ghastly,
"Sanang Noiane!" she cried in her clear voice,
"the Eight Towers are darkened! The Rampart
of Gog and Magog is fallen ! On Mount Alamoul
nothing is living. The minds of mankind are free
She stepped forward, slowly, and stood near him ;
chanting in a low voice the Prayers for the Dead
THE SLAYER OF SOULS 299
She bent down and unrolled the shroud, laid it on
his shoulders and drew it up and across his face,
covering his dying eyes, and swathed him' so, slowly,
from head to foot.
Then she gathered up the three knives, cast them
upward into the air. They did not fall again. They
disappeared. And all the while, under her breath,
the girl was chanting the Prayers for the Dead as
she moved silently about her business.
Shrouded to the forehead in its white cerements,
the muffled figure of Sanang stood upright, motion-
less as a swathed and frozen corpse.
Outside, the daylight had become greyer. It had
begun to snow again, and a few flakes blew in
through the shattered windows and clung to the
winding sheet of Sanang.
And now Tressa drew close to the shrouded shape
and stood before it, gazing intently upon the out-
lined features of the last of the Yezidees.
"Sanang," she said very softly, "I hear your soul
bidding your body farewell. Tokhta !"
Then, under the strained gaze of the four men
gathered there, the shroud fell to the floor in a loose
heap of white folds. There was nobody under it;
no trace of Sanang. The human shape of the Yezi-
dee had disappeared; but a greyish mist had filled
the room, wavering up like smoke from the shroud,
and, like smoke, blowing in a long streamer toward
the window where the draught drew it out through
the falling snow and scattered the last shred of it
against the greying sky.
300 THE SLAYER OF SOULS
In the room the mist thinned swiftly; the four
men could now see one another. But Tressa was no
longer in the room. And in place of the white shroud
a piece of filthy tattered carpet lay on the floor.
And a dead rat, flattened out, dry and dusty, lay
"For God's sake," whispered Recklow hoarsely,
"let us get out of this!"
Cleves, his pistol clutched convulsively, stared at
him in terror. But Recklow took him by the arm
and drew him away, muttering that Tressa was
waiting for him, and might be ill, and that there was
nothing further to expect in this ghastly spot.
They went with Cleves to the Ritz. At the desk
the clerk said that Mrs. Cleves had the keys and
was in her apartment.
The three men entered the corridor with him;
watched him try the door; saw him open it; lin-
gered a moment after it had closed; heard the key
At the sound of the door closing the maid came.
"Madame is asleep in her room," she whispered.
"When did she come in?"
"More than two hours ago, sir. I have drawn
her bath, but when I opened the door a few moments
ago, Madame was still asleep."
He nodded; he was trembling when he put off his
overcoat and dropped hat and gloves on the carpet.
From the little rose and ivory reception room he
THE SLAYER OF SOULS 301
could see the closed door of his wife's chamber.
And for a while he stood staring at it.
Then, slowly, he crossed this room, opened the
In her bedroom the tinted twilight was like ashes
of roses. He went to the bed and looked down at
her shadowy face; gazed intently; listened; then, in
sudden terror, bent and laid his hand on her heart.
It was beating as tranquilly as a child's; but as she
stirred, turned her head, and unclosed her eyes, un-
der his hand her heart leaped like a wild thing
caught unawares and the snowy skin glowed with an
exquisite and deepening tint as she lifted her arms
and clasped them around her husband's neck, draw-
ing his quivering face against her own.
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LIBRARY
This book is DUE on the last date stamped below
FEB 1 4 1994
JUN 2 4 1998
MAY 05 1997
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